Thousands of English fans arrive Madrid for Champions League final


Thousands of English football fans draped in their team’s colours gathered in Madrid ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham, many still desperately seeking tickets for the match.

In the central Sol square several men held up handmade signs reading “Buy tickets” as chanting supporters from both sides walked past, many carrying beers, with temperatures already approaching 30 degrees centigrade.

Among them was Kemam Kalkavar, a Turkish engineer and lifelong Liverpool fan who flew from Ankara with a group of friends for the match and was willing to pay 5,000 euros ($5,575) for a ticket.

“Watching from inside the stadium is much more exciting. It’s worth it,” the 50-year-old told AFP.

Spanish police on Friday arrested a Venezuelan woman at Sol square who sold two fake tickets to a Romanian national for 4,200 euros per ticket, a police spokesman said.

The authorities expect around 32,000 ticket-holding fans from both teams will attend the match at the 68,000-capacity Metropolitano stadium which will get underway at 9:00 pm local time (1900 GMT).

The Madrid hotel association estimates that 70,000 English fans will spend the weekend in the city.

Hundreds of extra flights to the Spanish capital have been added but some fans still struggled to make it to the city for the match.

Lew Cooper, a 56-year-old accountant flew with his teenage son Robert from Liverpool to Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast on Friday and then took a train the 420-kilometres to Madrid because direct flights were too expensive. They were among the lucky fans with tickets for the match.

Tottenham supporters gather at a fan zone in Madrid on June 1, 2019 before the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. (Photo by Loli San Jose / AFP)

“It was a bit of an odyssey. But we wanted to be here to celebrate when they win,” said Cooper who was decked out in a red Liverpool jersey.

Many supporters took refuge from the scorching heat in the shade of outdoor terraces, drinking beer.

“Tottenham deserve to win, they have had a phenomenal season, they came back from the brink several times, this is their year,” said Adam Brooks, a 26-year-old London consultant, who wore a white Tottenham jersey as he sat with a group of friends at an outdoor patio before the match.


Dina Asher-Smith finish second to Shaune Miller-Uibo in 200m at the Birmingham Grand Prix

Dina Asher-Smith underlined why is she seen as a World Championships medal contender with an impressive display in the 200m at the Birmingham Grand Prix.

The British double European champion finished second behind Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who has opted to compete in the 400m in Doha.

“This was like a Olympic or world final so it would have been a silver,” said Asher-Smith, referring to the field.

“It was fantastic to be able to run against this class at home.”

Asher-Smith led with about 40m of the race remaining before 6ft 1in Miller-Uibo, the world number one over 200m last season, eased past to take victory in 22.24 seconds. The 23-year-old clocked 22.36 and Jamaica’s London 2012 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, claimed third in 22.50.

The field, that included double world 200m champion Dafne Schippers, double world sprint silver medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare – the second fastest woman this season – all struggled in the cool, windy conditions.

The only major absentee from the line-up was Jamaica’s double Rio champion Elaine Thompson.

Briton Asher-Smith has her sights set on the sprint double at the World Championships, which begin on 28 September, and confirmed she would be competing in the 100m at the British trials in Birmingham next week.

In the men’s 100m, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake beat Briton Adam Gemili by eight thousandths of a second as both men crossed the line in 10.07 seconds.

Gemili won world junior gold over 100m in 2012 and European 200m gold in 2014, but has seen his progress hampered by injuries during the past two seasons.

The 25-year-old told BBC Sport: “This is all part of the process. We’ve got the British trials for Doha next week where I’ll be competing in both sprints. I’m glad to be healthy and I’m taking each race at a time.”

‘Dina might be on that podium in Doha’

BBC Athletics analyst Denise Lewis, Britain’s Sydney 2000 heptathlon champion

“Dina put her foot down from the start and tried to unnerve Miller-Uibo. She did the damage in first 120m and then it was about keeping her composure and about how much she could hang on to Miller-Uibo in the end.

“Dina is very much involved in her training programme and understands what she needs to do. We’re used to seeing Dina fade in those last few metres, but now she can hold her form better and that might unnerve her opponents. If she’s in the right place at the right time then she might be on that podium in Doha.”

Terrific Thiam gets the better KJT

Olympic and world heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam beat British rival Katarina Johnson-Thompson by a centimetre to win a keenly contested long jump contest.

Belgian Thiam came into the competition having set a new personal best of 6.67m in June, but broke that mark with 6.74m before going further in the next round with a brilliant 6.86m.

World indoor heptathlon champion Johnson-Thompson, the 2012 world junior gold medallist in this event, produced two fouls with her first two efforts before soaring out to 6.85m with her sixth and final jump.

Serbian Rio 2016 bronze medallist Ana Spanovic also leapt to 6.85m, but took second spot as a result of a better set of jumps.

Another Briton, Abigail Irozuru, finished fourth with a World Championships qualifying-standard leap of 6.75m.

‘I’m pretty happy with that after four months out’ – Hudson-Smith

Matthew Hudson-Smith (left) and Akeen Bloomfield (right)
Matthew Hudson-Smith, left with Akeen Bloomfield, was competing in his first outdoor race since the IAAF Continental Cup last September

The wind affected the men’s 400m where no competitor managed to dip under 45 seconds. The race was run by Jamaica’s Akeen Bloomfield in 45.04, while Briton Matthew Hudson-Smith finished a credible third with 45.55 in his first major race of the season, following a succession on injuries.

The European champion told BBC Sport: “I’ve only been training for a month so I’m pretty happy with that. I got to 300m and realised how much lactic hurt.

“I’ve been out for four months so I’m pretty pleased with that.”

The conditions also affected some of the athletes in the women’s pole vault, including Briton Holly Bradshaw, who finished sixth having only cleared 4.55m – she managed 4.72m in Lausanne last month. The event was won by Olympic and world champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece with 4.75m.

Elsewhere, Jamaica’s Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod eased to victory in 110m hurdles with a time of 13.21 seconds and compatriot Danielle Williams recorded a big win over American world record holder Kendra Harrison in the 100m hurdles.

Juli Inkster and Catriona Matthew either side of the cup's creator Karsten Solheim
Juli Inkster and Catriona Matthew either side of the cup’s creator Karsten Solheim
Solheim Cup
Date: 13-15 September Venue: Gleneagles, Scotland
Coverage: Full live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app followed by an hour-long highlights show on BBC Two or BBC Four each day that will also be available on BBC iPlayer and online.

The 16th edition of the Solheim Cup between Europe and the United States begins on Friday, 13 September at Gleneagles, Scotland.

Norway’s Pettersen – who has won 19 points in eight Solheim Cups – was a surprise inclusion having missed the 2017 event through injury and then taken time off in November of that year to have a baby.

The 38-year-old had been selected as a vice-captain but despite missing the cut in her first two events back this year, Matthew picked her to play.

Team USA

The visitors are led by Juli Inkster, who is captaining a relatively inexperienced side for a record third time.

Five of the American dozen are in the world’s top 20 but half of her squad are making their first Solheim Cup appearances.

In fact, they have played in just 14 Solheim Cups between them, with three players making their second appearances.

Ally McDonald, drafted in as a late replacement for the injured Stacy Lewis, joins Marina Alex, Brittany Altomare, Megan Khang, Nelly Korda and Annie Park in making their debuts.

But Inkster thinks making your Solheim Cup bow away from home can actually help.

“If you’re a rookie, it’s easier to play away because you’re not expected to win and you can play a little looser,” she said.

“It’s easier to bond and you don’t have a lot of outside distractions.”

Of those, only 21-year-old Nelly Korda at 10th is in the world’s top 30. Korda’s elder sister Jessica, 26, is also in the team, making them the first siblings to play for the US at the Solheim Cup.

“We’re similar in the way we look, we get called each other’s names, and our golf games are a similar style,” Jessica told BBC Sport.

“When I [recently] had a rules official saying I was going to be warned, he called me Nelly.”

The American team also features world number three Lexi Thompson. The 24-year-old became the youngest player to qualify for the US Women’s Open when she was 12

At the age of 16, she became the youngest winner of an LPGA event and was 19 when she won her first but so far only major title.

She has lost only two of her 11 Solheim Cup matches, picking up seven points in three appearances.

Morgan Pressel is the most experienced of the US players and is making her sixth appearance. The 31-year-old has won 10 and lost seven of her 19 matches.

The history

Norwegian-born American golf club maker Karsten Solheim was the driving force behind the formation of the event that bears his name.

Solheim only took up golf at the age of 42 but set about redesigning the putter and went on to establish Karsten Manufacturing, makers of the Ping brand of golf clubs.

The first Solheim Cup was staged at Lake Nona, Florida in 1990.

The US were comfortable 11½-4½ winners in the inaugural match but a Laura Davies-inspired Europe claimed victory two years later at Dalmahoy, near Edinburgh.

The US won the next three events by wide margins before the event returned to Scotland in 2000, with Europe triumphing at Loch Lomond.

Another home victory in 2003 for Europe was followed by three American successes. But after a narrow 15-13 win in Ireland, Europe recorded their first away victory in 2013 with a resounding 18-10 win in Colorado.

The US turned to Solheim Cup veteran Inkster as captain for the 2015 event in Germany but while Europe led 10-6 heading into Sunday’s singles, the US won eight-and-a-half points out of 12 to snatch victory.

Inkster guided the US to a 16½-11½ victory in Iowa last time out.

Key holes

The PGA Centenary course hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup, when Europe’s men beat their US counterparts 16½-11½ and there are a number of holes that could be key to the outcome of matches.

The second hole – Wester Greenwells – the first par five and danger lurks for those chasing the green in two with bunkers and water waiting for errant shots.

The fifth hole – Crookit Cratur – always rated the toughest hole on the course, with another well-protected green, particularly by marshland short and right.

The 14th hole – Nebit Knowe – a real risk-reward par four of just 232 yards. The green is shallow and well-guarded by bunkers with the safer option being to bail out to the left.

The 16th hole – Lochan Loup – do you lay up short of the water, or go for the green in two on this long par five? A heavily contoured green means there’s no certainty you’ll get down in two.

The 18th hole – Dun Roamin’ – for matches that make it up the last, there is a par five to finish. The green is narrow and surrounded by bunkers and hollows that will make for challenging up-and-downs.

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June 2019