Do combat sports really measure up when it comes to women’s self-defen

“Developing self-defence skills means reclaiming autonomy, thus regaining control over one’s environment. We are no longer at the mercy of someone,” according to psychotraumatology psychologist, Julie Francols. But are combat sports effective when it comes to fending off an unexpected attack?

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More and more women are venturing into the world of self-defence and combat sports, a trend strongly supported by recent data. A report from the French government highlights an 11% rise in martial arts licences and a 51% surge in combat sports licences among women between 2012 and 2017. Despite these fields being male-dominated in 2017, with martial arts and combat sports having a female participation of 32% and 31% respectively, by 2022, a notable shift was observed. According to the French National Institute of Youth and Popular Education, in France in that year, the majority of Martial Arts licences were owned by women, accounting for 62% compared to 38% for men.

In Lyon, France, the organisation Renouveau Boxe helps women who have been the victims of domestic violence, by offering boxing training.

A participant of the class, who didn’t wish to be named, added: “This training allows us to regain self-confidence and to see ourselves as people. What it shows us is that we’re not alone in this situation. And actually, we’re not ashamed. Because, very often we feel responsible for what’s happening and ashamed of it. But being with others who have lived through the same thing means we understand each other and speak the same language.”

Samir Hamzaoui, an instructor and former high-level boxer, shared his inspiration: “I know what it is to take hits and to put myself in the shoes of someone who can’t defend themselves. That’s what led me to start this project.”

Delving deeper, what spurs some women’s interest in combat sports?

Julie Francols, a Psychotraumatology Psychologist, shed some light on this. “Experiencing an assault makes you feel robbed of something. The assailant unjustly takes control over you. However, developing self-defence skills means reclaiming autonomy and the ability to defend oneself, thus regaining control over one’s environment. We are no longer at the mercy of someone.” She further observed, “You can see it in people from the time they start the training to when they finish; their bodies express the change: they now exist in the world differently.”

How effective are these disciplines when it comes to preventing violence?

Christy Martin, a former boxing champion and survivor of domestic violence, weighed in on the issue. “Even though I was a boxing champion, I was physically and mentally abused by a man… He had threatened to kill me for 20 years, so I would push, but you only push so hard. It was not a match. Even though he was 20 years older, he was still stronger than me. So, physically, I was never going to be able to fight him and win. I mean, any time that he hit me, even if I pushed physically back, I just got hit harder. So, I was never going to win that physical altercation. And the truth is, I never won the emotional altercations, either.” On 23 November, 2010, Christy Marty was stabbed and shot by her husband. At the time, she was 42 years old and the welterweight champion credited with putting women’s boxing on the map.

Julie Francols told us it’s not simply a matter of knowing how to defend oneself: “When we are attacked, the first response, which is an automatic reflex by our autonomic nervous system, uses either attack, flight or freezing up. At that moment, the victim is paralysed”.

“To implement these self-defence techniques, there needs to be a few brief seconds that allow the person to regain control of the situation. It requires a lot of training for self-defence techniques to become automatic. However, at first there will always be these automatic, involuntary responses.”

Navigating trauma and expectations

Addressing a critical aspect of recovery, Julie Junquet, a consultant on issues of sexual and sexist violence and discrimination in sports, highlighted the challenges faced by survivors of violence: “I don’t see self-defence as a solution in the fight against sexual violence, and I find there’s even a message that can be guilt-inducing for these women who take classes, who tell themselves, ‘now I know how to defend myself’, if they face an assault in the future and unfortunately can’t reproduce the techniques they’ve learned. I find that can be somewhat guilt-inducing.”

Junquet also highlighted additional misconceptions about these training programs. “The societal messages are problematic. Don’t dress like that, don’t walk alone at night, learn to defend yourself; it’s always problematic. No, we don’t want to learn to defend ourselves; we just want not to be assaulted!

“We know that placing oneself in conditions of struggle, combat, or potential assault can trigger flashbacks of the real assault, trigger revivals, and there, it can trigger in the brain certain mechanisms that are quite dangerous. Placing oneself in a situation of assault is not trivial.”

Christy Martin cautioned against creating a false sense of invincibility: “You have to be careful with teaching self-defence, so that we don’t put a false belief out there, thinking ‘OK, I’m going to do this self-defence class, and then I’m always going to be able to fight off anybody that attacks me.’ That is not the case.”

So, how can this kind of training reach its fullest potential?

Christy Martin believes it’s not merely about the physical aspect but the self-belief the training instills. “It’s really not about the skills that you’re learning; it’s not about throwing a right hand, throwing a left hook. It’s about the confidence that learning those skills gives you, and that confidence helps you be stronger to stand up for yourself.”

She credits her boxing career for helping her survive the attack she was a victim of. “I think my boxing career gave me mental strength. Much more than it gave me physical strength. Mentally, it made me a fighter. And when I was laying on the floor after being shot and stabbed, I believed in me. I mentally thought ‘with the help of God, I can get up and get out’.”

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Matildas qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics with 10-nil thrashing of Uzbekistan

The ruthless Matildas have thrashed Uzbekistan 10-0 to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games in style, with Michelle Heyman scoring four goals to put her hand up for a ticket to Paris.

Australia led the tie 3-0 after Saturday’s first leg in Tashkent but blew Uzbekistan out of the water to win 13-0 on aggregate, with Caitlin Foord, Kaitlyn Torpey, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso and Amy Sayer also scoring.

Temperatures hit 36C in Melbourne earlier on Wednesday, but it didn’t deter a crowd of 54,120, which included Olympic greats Cathy Freeman and Anna Meares.

The Matildas took the lead inside 34 seconds at Marvel Stadium and never looked back, with Fowler at her spellbinding best in an eight-goal first-half rout.

Heyman, 35, who also scored in Tashkent, replaced Emily van Egmond for her first international start since March 2018.

The striker’s movement and guile proved far too hot for Uzbekistan to handle as she snared a hat-trick inside the first 16 minutes.

Second-gamer Torpey, 23, had a hand in three goals and scored her first international goal in her own compelling audition for the 18-player Olympics squad.

Australia took the lead when Torpey’s squaring ball deflected off Uzbek defender Dilrabo Asadova for an own goal.

Three minutes later, Fowler launched a diagonal ball from the left and Torpey brilliantly stuck out her right leg to cut the ball across goal.

Clare Hunt fluffed her shot but Heyman was on hand to tuck it away.

For the third, in the eighth minute, Steph Catley lofted a ball in from the left that dipped for Heyman to nod home.

Heyman sealed her hat-trick when Fowler threaded a great ball behind the Uzbek defence for the striker to put away.

Torpey scored the fifth in the 22nd minute when Uzbekistan failed to clear a corner and she rifled a close-range strike into the roof of the net.

Rarely troubled, Mackenzie Arnold made a strong save to deny Uzbekistan captain Lyudmila Karachik in the 28th minute.

Six minutes later, Katrina Gorry picked out Fowler with a wonderful inside pass and the playmaker rifled home.

In the 38th minute, Uzbekistan failed to deal with a Kyra Cooney-Cross free kick and Foord pounced for Australia’s seventh.

On the stroke of half-time, Uzbekistan cleared a corner off the line but Torpey squared it for Heyman to stoop and head home her fourth.

Heyman, Foord, Gorry and Ellie Carpenter came off at half-time, for Sayer, Tameka Yallop, van Egmond and Raso, while Charli Grant replaced Catley in the 65th minute.

Raso rifled home in the 68th while Sayer’s first international goal in the fourth minute of injury time put an exclamation mark on the victory.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Well, what a way to qualify for your third Olympic Games in a row!

An absolute masterclass from the Matildas saw them sweep aside the underdog Uzbeks, taking out the two-legged tie 13-0 on aggregate.

The first half was particularly brutal, with the tone set within the first 45 seconds by Kaitlyn Torpey’s torpedo cross that was spun into the net by an Uzbekistan defender.

The goals came thick and fast after that, with Michelle Heyman scoring four in the first 45 minutes alone.

Torpey, Mary Fowler, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, and Amy Sayer all added to the scoreboard, and while a host of rotations made the second half a little less thrilling, there is very little to complain about from this completely dominant display by Australia’s fave sports team.

The players are about to be congratulated with a special presentation on the field: a giant “QUALIFIED” sign has been set up on half-way, with a giant novelty plane ticket being presented to them by Olympic legend Anna Meares.

It’s been a long road through qualifying, but finally the Matildas can prepare properly for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

And you bet your butts I’ll be back here on the blog when they do, as well as for a friendly they’ve got set up against Mexico on April 10.

Until then, take it easy!

Your reactions!

What a game! I’d hoped we’d win, but I never expected this!

– Mickey from Canberra

Love it

– Julian

Thanks for another great live blog, Sam! ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

Uzbekistan have been much better this half both defensively and in terms of capitalising on chances they get but ultimately you do have to feel for them having lost their keeper to injury and losing by a large margin for the first time since their Asian Games semi and third-place matches against North Korea and China.

– Adam

All this time we’ve been looking for another striker and she has been hiding in plain sight at Canberra…

– Mike

Ms Sayer! Relief written large on a young face. I suspect this second half, like the first half a few days ago, has made Tony’s squad selection decision making a little easier. All solid, a well oiled machine he’s built, complete with sub parts, and a couple of high profile busted elements. Finally he has the depth and breadth they’ve all worked for. It’s a joy to experience. Thanks Sam!

– Big Ben

THE MATILDAS ARE GOING TO THE PARIS OLYMPICS!!!!

To: the blog. From: the Matildas.

Will I ever get my ten goals 😂

– Julian

C’mon ladies, let’s make it a nice round 10!

– C

Full-time: Australia 10 – 0 Uzbekistan

93′ GOAL AUSTRALIA

Aaaaaand that’s 10!

It’s Amy Sayer’s turn to get on the scoreboard after a nice series of one-two passes between Tameka Yallop and Mary Fowler slice right through Uzbekistan’s midfield, before the ball is fed down the left wing for the onrushing Charlie Grant.

The left-back then clips a dangerous ball back across the six-yard area, spinning chaotically through a bunch of legs, before falling to Sayer at the back post, who swings her left foot through it and finally finds the back of the net.

10-0.

90′ Five minutes of added time

Uzbekistan, to their full credit, haven’t stopped trying.

They’ve had a handful of moves that have ended in the Matildas’ penalty box, including one just now as a handful of players try to build some triangles through the middle before Karachik Lyudmila chips the ball over the top to nobody except Mackenzie Arnold.

They’ve kept Australia to just one goal in this whole half, which is something.

Get ’em out, I say

What’s with the rolled up sleeves? Kennedy, Raso and now Grant.

– Ronan

What, you’re saying you wouldn’t roll up your sleeves if you had the incredible athletic arms of these players?

I don’t think I’d ever wear sleeves again, personally.

Anyone else keen for a Matildas sleeveless guernsey?

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Maybe “Mystical Mary” is a more apt alliteration

It’s interesting you mention Fowler appearing to operate in a different dimension – I think she might be a shape-shifter. There are times she takes the ball into congested traffic and somehow effortlessly appears on the other side still with the ball, or approach in-possession opposition players from behind, pass through them and continue on with the ball…

– Mike

Meanwhile…

Loving the meme posted about Japan v N. Korea. I literally only eat popcorn in for dinner in Matilda’s nights!

– Lulu

Japan lead North Korea 1-0 just after the hour-mark.

It’s been a pretty even affair once again, though: Japan have had 8 shots to 9 (including 2 on target v 4), 58% possession to 42%, and zero corners to 1.

The DPRK could very well claw a goal back and push this second Olympic qualifier all the way to the edge.

You love to see it

I’m in the crowd and there is definitely a growing minority cheering on Uzbekistan… only to be drowned by the manic roar when the Tillies scored that ninth goal!

– Tess

There’s definitely a small Uzbek community here in Australia, and what a joy it must be for them to see their women’s national team playing here in a stadium like this. Love that they’re still cheering for their team, even though they’re 9-0 down.

Wow!

54,120 !!! Wow, a stark contrast to the 2,000 locals at Milliy stadium 5 days ago. It was still amazing to there. 29 other Aussies and myself.

– I Was in Tashkent

I was there in Tashkent 5 days ago. There was 30 Australians in attendance and about 2,000 locals. It was free entry to the match. It was amazing to see them inperson and up close.

– Travelling with Russell

Shout-out to the small group of die-hard Matildas fans who travelled all the way to Tashkent for the first leg, then flew back here to Melbourne for the second.

What an awesome experience!

79′ Uzbekistan substitution

The substitute goalkeeper seems to have had her foot trodden on by her own player during a challenge that involved Amy Sayer, but has stayed in the grass, so the Matildas take the opportunity to grab a quick drink on the sidelines.

There doesn’t seem to be much tactical chat happening. They’re just chilling out until the game ends, really. Mackenzie Arnold, Alanna Kennedy, and Clare Hunt are still on the field, talking amongst themselves. Raso and Torpey are on the far side doing the same.

76′ Shot after shot after shot

It’s honestly been hard to blog this match because the number of chances the Matildas have had is… stratospheric.

Just as I finish describing the build-up to one shot, they’ve found a way to create and let off another. So you just have to imagine the way things have gone based on the below:

Australia have registered 37 shots in total so far, including 17 on target.

70% possession, 85% pass accuracy, and 1 corners.

They’ve been completely, utterly, dominant. That’s the story of the game.

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Matildas triumph 3-0 over Uzbekistan in first Olympic qualifier

Michelle Heyman has scored her first international goal in almost eight years to inspire a 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan and drag the Matildas one step closer to a place at the Paris Olympics.

In their first match since superstar skipper Sam Kerr tore her ACL in January, Australia understandably missed one of the world’s best strikers at the Milliy Stadium in Tashkent.

The Matildas were scratchy and lacked cohesion, while Emily van Egmond had a horror night up forward, missing one sitter and failing to convert two other chances she would normally bury.

Coach Tony Gustavsson turned to Canberra United star Heyman, 35, to replace van Egmond off the bench in the 65th minute, and the veteran delivered just eight minutes later.

In her first appearance since 2018, Heyman headed home her 21st goal for Australia and her first since netting twice against Zimbabwe at the Rio Olympics on August 9, 2016.

Mary Fowler, who was wonderful in the second half, scored a sublime individual goal in the 84th minute, and Caitlin Foord headed home in the 86th to seal victory.

It means Australia will head into Wednesday’s second leg at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium with a crucial 3-0 lead in the tie.

Debutant Kaitlyn Torpey started on the wing, wearing Kerr’s number 20 but was hooked for Foord, who was having her game time managed, at half-time.

Australia had 75 per cent of possession in the first half but just four shots and one on target, but they finished with 26 (eight on target).

They should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Torpey tried to square for van Egmond instead of shooting.

Hayley Raso dragged a first-time strike wide on the half-hour mark, and shortly afterwards van Egmond hooked over the bar.

Just before half-time, van Egmond failed to get a header on target from point-blank range.

In the 54th minute, Fowler curled a wonderful ball behind the Uzbekistan defence and van Egmond inexplicably failed to tap home.

Heyman headed over the bar a minute after coming on, then delivered the lead when she nodded a corner onto the bar before following up with a second header.

Fowler then intercepted a clearance with a wonderful first touch, weaved between defenders and ripped a fantastic long-range strike inside the near post.

Foord found space and turned home a Steph Catley cross to wrap up proceedings.

Check out how all the action unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

 First of all: whew.

That first half was pretty rusty, as expected, but Tony Gustavsson’s substitutes gave the Matildas exactly the energy and dynamism they needed to unlock what had been, until then, a very solid Uzbekistan defence.

Michelle Heyman will be absolutely buzzing, scoring her first goal since 2016 upon her return to the national team after a four-year retirement, while Mary Fowler and the excellent Caitlin Foord added goals two and three.

You’d have to think the Canberra striker is a lock to start in the second leg in Melbourne on Wednesday: she provided Australia with a target player, height, power, and important movement to bring other players into the game around her.

Now that they’ve made it through this chilly first game, the Matildas return home with wind in their sails and a 3-0 advantage, which is exactly what they would have wanted.

Thanks so much for joining me on the blog for tonight’s game, and I can’t wait to be back here on Wednesday as we see whether the gals can qualify for their third Olympic Games in a row!

See you then!

Full-time: Uzbekistan 0 – 3 Australia

Crowd numbers

Robbie Thompson has said the crowd in Tashkent is just under 2,500 people.

As of today, almost the entirety of Marvel Stadium is sold out for Wednesday’s second leg.

The Uzbekistan players won’t be ready for noise like that, I reckon.

Permutations

What happens if Tillies win tonight and Uzbekistan wins Wednesday night? Who goes to Paris?

– EveWintergreen

It depends on how much Uzbekistan hypothetically win by.

If Australia finish this game 3-0 winners, Uzbekistan would need to win at least 4-0 in Melbourne on Wednesday to qualify for Paris.

90′ Three minutes of time added on

Same, honestly

UZB’s goalie kicking the ball back in the net after the third goal is so real. I would be so frustrated

– Em for Matildas

89′ Australia substitution

Ellie Carpenter comes off for Charlie Grant.

Catchy!

The song we sing here, Hey hey Heyman ooohh ahhh, I wanna know if you’ll kick that goal!

– Canberra is cool

Yiew!!!

And again ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️
Mary Fowler

– Vic in Vic

HaHAAAAAA! Heyman + Fowler

– Big Ben

Mary Mary Mary you beaute

– Em for Matildas

Just my luck. I step out to put stuff in the fridge, and the Tillies score a goal. Belated Hooray, anyway!

– SeonaBath

Floodgates open. Thanks Caitlin! ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

85′ GOAL AUSTRALIA

Caitlin Foord makes it three!

The Matildas have been trying this move all night: a winger chipping a pass in behind Uzbekistan’s defenders to find the head of an attacking player, and this time Caitlin Foord is there, all alone, to nod home a perfectly-weighted cross from Steph Catley.

3-0!

Hail Mary!

Mary Fowler you superstar! 😍⚽️💚💛

– Leo

83′ GOAL AUSTRALIA!

MAGIC MARY FOWLER MAKES IT TWO!

The midfielder has been chipping away at Uzbekistan’s defenders all night, and this time she just goes route one: picking up the ball in deep midfield and dancing past three players all by herself.

She skates towards the top of the box and steadies herself, unleashing her lethal right foot through the rubber to send a shot low and hard across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner of the net.

2-0!!!

82′ Australia substitutions

Aivi Luik replaces Alanna Kennedy, while Tameka Yallop comes on for Hayley Raso.

80′ Chance Australia!

Goodness me, that was almost a bizarre second goal for the Matildas.

A long, dipping cross from Mary Fowler far out on the left wing is falling perfectly into the Zone Of Hesitation between Caitlin Foord and Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper, with both of them thinking the other was going to touch it, only for neither of them to get it at all.

Instead, the ball bounces past all of them and a gasp goes around the ground as it almost nestles into the far corner of the net, but bounces just wide instead.

77′ Matildas want a second

They’ve been attacking Uzbekistan in waves for the past five minutes, coming in at all angles and trying to keep the tempo and pressure up on their opponents.

Catley’s corners have been on-point all night, and are looking like Australia’s best attacking weapon at the moment. Alanna Kennedy could have nodded home the Matildas’ second goal a few minutes ago, but she mistimed her jump. Clare Hunt did the same just now.

You’d think they’ll be working a bit more on finishing their headers in the interim before the second leg of this series on Wednesday night, but wouldn’t it be great to snag one or two more goals here so that the pressure is off in Melbourne?

I sure would love that.

Woohoo!!!!

YYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

– Natty

Finally ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ Michelle Hayman

– Vic in Vic

Oh Michelle! I’m in tears! ⚽️💚💛😍

– Leo

CRYING SCREAMING THROWING UP I AM SO HAPPY

– Em for Matildas

Finally! Tillies score off a corner in how long? Thank you Ms Heyman and welcome back.

– Big Ben

72′ GOAL AUSTRALIA!

MICHELLE HEYMAN SCORES IN HER COMEBACK GAME!

A brilliant corner from Steph Catley angles in towards the front post, bobbling off Heyman’s shoulder and clanging off the crossbar.

It could have deflected anywhere, but it fell straight back to her, and she nodded it over the scrambling Uzbekistan defender on the line and into the net.

1-0!

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Champions League: Napoli draw with Barca, Porto beat Arsenal

Victor Osimhen was described as “a huge player” after marking his return for Napoli with a goal that gave the Italian champions a 1-1 draw with Barcelona and hope that a dreadful season might have reached a turning point.

Nigeria forward Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left of the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, in his first match since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 25-year-old equalised Robert Lewandowski’s 60th-minute opener, which seemed likely to be the decisive goal as Barca were for long periods the better team, with Napoli’s first and only shot on target.

“He’s a huge player for us,” said Napoli skipper Giovanni Di Lorenzo to Amazon Prime Video.

“He’s come back with the right attitude. We knew he would though as he’s a great player and professional. He’ll give us a hand in the matches to come.”

Osimhen had last played for Napoli in a 2-0 defeat at Roma just before Christmas, when he was one of two players from his team to be sent off.

His ninth club goal of the season came at a crucial time, not just in the match but in Napoli’s campaign as they play under their third manager of the season in Francesco Calzona, their league title defence up in flames.

Calzona had less than 48 hours to prepare for his first match in charge after replacing Walter Mazzarri on Monday night, and Osimhen gave Napoli a chance of progressing despite a disjointed performance by his team.

Napoli head into next month’s second leg in the Catalan capital knowing that with Osimhen in the team there is always a chance of a goal regardless of the overall team display.

“It’s a good starting point,” added Di Lorenzo.

“We know that we need to do more but we’ve taken a step forward and now we have a chance in the return leg. It’s all to play for.”

Osimhen saves Napoli

For Barca meanwhile it was the latest misstep of a complicated campaign at the end of which coach Xavi will leave, assuming president Joan Laporta doesn’t sack the coach before then.

The away side had the better chances but couldn’t put Napoli away and could yet pay for their wastefulness.

“We’re a little disappointed with the result because we could have come out with a win,” said Ronald Araujo to Movistar.

“Napoli had a lot of the ball in the last 15 minutes but they barely created a chance. The Champions League is like that.”

Barca showed why they were pre-match favourites in the opening exchanges, dominating the ball and creating shooting opportunities which dulled an initially raucous crowd.

Teen sensation Lamine Yamal come close to becoming the Champions League’s youngest ever scorer when his ninth-minute effort was well-saved by Alex Meret.

In the 23rd minute, the away side twice went close to taking the lead, Lewandowski’s flicked finish kept out by Meret who then tipped away Ilkay Gundogan’s long-range rocket.

From that point on Napoli’s presence in the game grew, but the hosts failed to let off a single effort on goal before the break despite pushing their opponents on back.

Gundogan forced another smart save from Meret shortly after the restart after being put through by Yamal before blasting over another presentable chance.

Barca had the lead their performance deserved on the hour when Lewandowski collected Pedri’s pass and drilled a perfect low finish past Meret.

With the away side looking like they would push home their advantage, Osimhen pounced as Inigo Martinez slipped on the edge of the area to level the scores and transform the atmosphere in the stadium.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and substitute Giovanni Simeone both had efforts off target with the home side’s tails up, but it was Barca who went inches away from snatching a late win.

Gundogan’s frustrating night in front of goal continued deep into stoppage time as his low effort flew just wide.

Galeno stuns timid Arsenal with late Porto winner

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta bemoaned his team’s lack of cutting edge as Galeno’s sublime stoppage-time goal earned Porto a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Appearing in a first knockout match in Europe’s premier club competition for seven years, Arsenal struggled to break down an organised Porto defence before Galeno’s stroke of brilliance in the 94th minute.

The defeat ended Arsenal’s eight-game unbeaten run against Portuguese opposition and the Gunners with plenty of work to do in the return leg in London on March 12.

“We lacked threat. We lacked aggression, especially when we had the ball in the final third,” Arteta told TNT Sports. “So we will tweak a few things to attack better. We can do better.”

Arsenal last made it to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2010, when they beat Porto in the last 16, but it is the Portuguese club who now have the upper hand. 

“I think it’s a team that’s very well-organised defensively and they break your rhythm all the time,” said Arteta.

“We want to be in the quarter-finals, you have to beat your opponent and this is what we have to do at the Emirates.”

Arsenal failed to register a single shot on target as their recent goal spree came to a shuddering halt.

“When it’s 0-0, you look up at the clock and it’s 93 minutes gone, if you aren’t going to win the game then don’t lose it,” said Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth because we’ve conceded late but we know what to do. We’re not going to let our heads drop.”

Arteta stuck with the same starting line-up for the third game in succession following his team’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley at the weekend.

Porto defender Pepe, who turns 41 next week and is the oldest outfield player in Champions League history, made his 119th appearance in the competition. 

By comparison, Arsenal’s starters had combined for a total of 104 before kick-off at the Estadio do Dragao.

While short on Champions League experience, Arteta has said his squad have the belief they can mix it with Europe’s best.

Flee-flowing attack stalls 

The Gunners have started 2024 with five successive wins in the Premier League, scoring 21 goals in those games, and are firmly in the race for a first title in two decades. 

As well as reigning supreme in England for the first time since 2004, the north Londoners are convinced they can also conquer Europe, spurred on further by the prospect of a Wembley final.

Arsenal have never won the Champions League — losing their only final appearance against Barcelona in 2006.

Porto, European champions in 1987 and 2004, are a disappointing third in Portugal this term, but frustrated Arsenal throughout. 

They were happy to cede possession and allow Arsenal to dictate the tempo in the first half, but it was the hosts who created the best chance. 

Francisco Conceicao darted in from the right and slid over a cross that looped off a sliding Gabriel, with Galeno rifling against the far post and then steering the rebound wide after the ball came right back to him.

William Saliba and Kai Havertz headed wide at corners either side of a Nico Gonzalez drive that sailed over in a physical opening 45 minutes.

Leandro Trossard, deployed again as the leader of the attack alongside Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, lashed over on the volley from Rice’s driven corner early in the second half.

Arteta made his lone change with a quarter of an hour left, replacing Trossard with Jorginho, but Arsenal’s lack of a prolific striker was exposed and they were ultimately undone by a moment of magic from Galeno.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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Michelle Heyman’s Matildas recall highlights Australian football’s striker problem

When news broke in January that Matildas captain Sam Kerr had torn her ACL, keeping her on the sidelines of the sport for the better part of the next year, a question that had been simmering in the background of Australian women’s football for the past few years suddenly reached boiling-point.

How can the country’s greatest ever goal-scorer be replaced? Which player is ready to step into the 30-year-old’s golden shoes? Who is next in the production-line of Australian strikers?

This question was being asked even when Kerr was fit and healthy. Since the 2019 Women’s World Cup, doubts were festering that the Matildas had become too reliant on the Chelsea forward, and that the team struggled to find the back of the net without her.

Sam Kerr’s ACL injury has put a spotlight on Australian football’s ongoing struggle to develop strikers.(AAP Image: Richard Wainwright)

The 2022 Women’s Asian Cup quarterfinal against South Korea was a case in point: Kerr started that game and had a handful of open-net chances which, for some reason, she failed to finish. The Matildas lost 1-0 and exited the competition at the earliest point in their history.

The question was the subtext to Kerr’s calf injury on the eve of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, too: how on earth would the team perform without their star player? Who else do we have waiting in the wings to take over?

While head coach Tony Gustavsson was able to rapidly shuffle the team’s structure and rely more on other players like Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, Mary Fowler and Emily Van Egmond to step up in her place, Kerr’s memorable goal against England in the semifinal — the only bright spark in an otherwise fatigued performance from the rest of the team — left many wondering how much further the Matildas could have gone had she been available the whole time.

But there is no day-by-day countdown clock on Kerr’s return now, as there was last July. Today, we have certainty that she won’t make a miraculously speedy recovery to be fully fit for the Olympic qualifying play-off against Uzbekistan in about two weeks, nor for the Olympic Games in Paris in just five months’ time. The question has now come into full and urgent focus.

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#Michelle #Heymans #Matildas #recall #highlights #Australian #footballs #striker #problem

Socceroos lose to South Korea in extra time of quarterfinal to be eliminated from Asian Cup

The Socceroos have crashed out of the Asian Cup in heartbreaking fashion, suffering a dramatic 2-1 extra-time loss to South Korea after throwing away a 1-0 lead in Qatar.

Craig Goodwin gave Australia the lead when he volleyed home in the 42nd minute in front of 39,632 fans at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Australia then spurned multiple chances to double their lead before a nightmare stint off the bench from right-back Lewis Miller, and two big moments from Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min turned the game in South Korea’s favour.

With Graham Arnold’s charges up 1-0 deep into stoppage time, Miller needlessly dived in late on South Korea’s superstar captain Son, giving away a penalty.

Hwang Hee-chan coolly slammed the spot-kick into the top corner in the seventh minute of injury time to take the game to extra-time.

In the 104th minute, Miller then brought down Hwang on the edge of the area, only for Spurs’ Son to lift a wonderful free kick into the top corner to put South Korea in front.

Australia’s hopes of a comeback were then made all but impossible minutes after the goal when they were reduced to 10 men.

Aiden O’Neill lunged in to attempt to win the ball and caught Hwang with his studs, with his initial yellow card upgraded to a straight red after a VAR referral.

South Korea comfortably saw out the game from there to send Australia packing and tee up a semi-final against Jordan, who beat Tajikistan 1-0 earlier on Friday local time.

For the Koreans, the result partly avenged their 2-1 extra-time loss to the Socceroos in the 2015 Asian Cup final in Sydney. 

Check out how the match unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Thanks Sam. A disappointing, but not unexpected result. The Socceroos gave all that they had.

Will you be blogging the Tillies v Uzbekistan Olympic qualifier?

– Mark

Football can be a cruel game, and this is one of the cruellest Socceroos games I can remember.

They were literally a minute away from a heroic 1-0 win over South Korea, only for Lewis Miller’s panicked slide tackle in the box handing their opponents a comeback on a platter.

Hwang Hee-Chan’s penalty took the wind out of Australia’s sails, as did the straight red card to Aiden O’Neill after a dangerous tackle on Hee-Chan in the first stanza of extra-time, taking the Socceroos down to ten.

From there, the team faded and faded. Overall, South Korea were good for this win, but Australia will know that this is an enormous opportunity missed, and will linger in the heads and their hearts for a while.

South Korea now progress to the Asian Cup semi-final against Jordan, while the Socceroos will debrief and then go back to their clubs.

There will be plenty of conversation in the coming days about this game and this tournament, but all I’ll say for now is that I am really proud of how the Socceroos played tonight: they did what they do best, showing us the grit and the fight that captured the whole country in 2022.

Like then, it was a joy to bring you their journey here. I’ll be back on the ABC Sport liveblog later this month to cover the Matildas’ Olympic qualifying games against Uzbekistan, which I hope you’ll join me for.

Until then!

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Full time: Australia 1 – 2 South Korea

119′ Chance Korea!

Son Heung-min picks up the ball on half-way and just… jogs forward towards Australia’s defence, with no yellow shirts flooding back with urgency.

He has so much time to choose what to do here as three team-mates flood around. He opts left, sending a perfectly-weighted pass angled left into the box, and his team-mate rockets a shot towards the far post… only for Mat Ryan to throw two big hands at it and palm it away.

The ball rolls out to the other Korean winger, who tries to fire it over Ryan who’s still splayed out in the grass, but somehow it spins out for a goal kick.

Incredible keeping.

116′ Long bombs

Both teams are just pinging the ball over the top of each other’s defences now, hoping one of their fresh-legged forwards can speed in behind the slowing centre-backs and nick a goal.

It’s pretty rudimentary stuff, though. A ball floats in, and is headed away by a centreback. It’s hoofed up-field, only for the opposing centre-back to head it away. It’s been like this for a few minutes as both teams try to figure out what on earth else they can do.

114′ Referee error!

A lovely cross-field pass out to the left for the charging Aziz Behich sees the full-back bring it down beautifully before turning and aiming for a through-ball, but the referee whistles the game dead and points for a free kick to… Korea.

What? The referee gestures for a handball on Behich, but the replay shows the ball was nowhere near either of his arms.

That was such a shame: the Socceroos could’ve carved a rare opening with that run down the wing, but the ref has decided otherwise.

111′ Mat Ryan still flyin’

The Socceroos captain is still on his toes, even if most of his team-mates aren’t anymore.

Australia’s players are making more and more mistakes as they fatigue and lose concentration, but lucky for them Ryan is still wide-awake.

He snapped a shot out of the air a minute ago, and just came sprinting out of his box to calmly collect a through-ball with his foot before passing neatly to a team-mate.

Son Heung-min found too much space a moment later, opening up his body as a sliding Behich came across, but he hooked his shot just wide as Ryan was ready for it to come at him.

So at least we’ve got that.

108′ Behich is down

He’s run a marathon in this game, has Aziz.

Somehow he’s found himself up near Korea’s box, throwing himself around, trying anything to get a foot on the ball and send a cross in.

He tries to work with Bruno Fornaroli, but the ball just doesn’t settle. It’s hoofed into his stomach, and he tries his best to loft the deflection over the Korean defenders and towards the six-yard box, but it floats harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s hands.

Behich then leans down into the grass and clutches at his stomach. Winded, maybe? He gets up and jogs gingerly away a moment later after the Koreans had lumped the ball out so he could receive attention.

He looks cooked.

106′ Big Man Up Top

Harry Souttar is a centre-forward now.

If you were wondering what Graham Arnold’s “break glass in case of emergency” plan was.

Second half of extra time kick off!

105′ South Korea substitutions

Park Yong-Woo is replaced by Park Jin-seop.

Hwang Hee-Chan, who’s been epic in this match, comes off for Oh Hyeon-gyu.

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Socceroos draw 1-1 with Uzbekistan to top Asian Cup group

The Socceroos have sealed top spot in their Asian Cup group but will head into the knockout stage with a dent in their confidence after a flat 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan.

Australia were already guaranteed to reach the round of 16 but needed a win or draw at Doha’s Al Janoub Stadium to finish top of Group B.

Martin Boyle’s spot-kick in the opening minute of first-half injury time, after a dubious hand-ball call on defender Odiljon Hamrobekov following a VAR review, gave Australia a much-needed lead after an uninspiring opening half.

A handful of personnel changes were made after Australia’s 1-0 win over Syria on Thursday, with Riley McGree in particular offering a point of creative difference in an otherwise stale Socceroos attack that was spear-headed by the inexperienced Kusini Yengi, who had replaced the injured Mitch Duke up front.

However, Uzbekistan grew into the match and, come the second half, took almost total control of possession and chance creation. Their effort and energy paid off when substitute Azizbek Turgunboev leapt over Aziz Behich and headed home the equaliser in the 78th minute.

It was Uzbekistan’s first goal against Australia in five meetings, also ending a run of six consecutive clean sheets for the Socceroos.

Uzbekistan finished second on five points, while Syria beat India 1-0 to finish third on four points, sealing progression as one of the best third-placed finishers while knocking out both India and China, who came third in Group A but cannot now progress.

The Socceroos will play the best third-placed team from either group C or D, and will likely be on the opposite side of the draw to tournament favourites Japan.

But there is plenty for Arnold to address, with Australia’s struggles to break down a defence, lack of creativity and a second-half fade-out among the concerns.

Harry Souttar had hearts in mouths in the ninth minute when he turned the ball over to Oston Urunov, only to recover to make the crucial tackle at the last moment.

Australia had the ball in the back of the net in the 11th minute through Kusini Yengi, but it was chalked off for an offside in the build-up.

Yengi’s best moment of the game came at the end of the first half as the striker went on a wonderful weaving run through Uzbekistan’s defence and cut the ball back for McGree, who inexplicably shot wide.

But luck was in Australia’s favour. During Yengi’s run, he attempted to get past Hamrobekov and the ball flicked off the defender’s arm, which he was using to brace his fall, then back into the striker’s path.

After a lengthy VAR review, Hamrobekov was penalised and booked and Boyle drilled the penalty into the bottom corner.

Uzbekistan’s Umar Eshmurodov headed home in the 60th minute but was offside.

It proved a warning shot.

Eighteen minutes later, Turgunboev brilliantly buried a wonderful dipping cross from Jaloliddin Masharipov to ensure Uzbekistan’s progression.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

They’d already qualified for the round of 16, but this draw against Uzbekistan means Australia have topped Group B and will play the best third-placed team from somewhere else in the tournament.

Like their first two group games, this was an awkward and rusty performance from the Socceroos. A handful of personnel changes perhaps contributed to that, though Australia’s best players was probably Riley McGree, who earned his first start of the Asian Cup.

But there’s still a question of where more goals can come from. There was a lack of creativity tonight, as there has been over the past two games, and too much sideways possession with not enough activity or improvisation through the central channels.

Graham Arnold will have to solve these problems now. There are no second-chances in knock-out football, and while Australia have done themselves a favour by topping the group and therefore facing a theoretically weaker opponent in the round of 16, they haven’t got long to figure this stuff out before they face a serious title contender.

In any case, there’s one more game on the horizon in five days’ time. And you bet I’ll be here to take you through all the action once again.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your week!

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Full-time: Australia 1 – 1 Uzbekistan

96′ Chance Australia!

A long ball from Souttar is controlled nicely by Kusini Yengi, who eases it out to Marco Tilio on the left.

The winger shimmies past two defenders and clips a cross into the six-yard box, but an Uzbekistan player beats Yengi to the header near the back post.

Help!

Someone needs to do something! …. Sam! … HELP THEM!…

– Mike

I’M TRYING TO MANIFEST THEM ANOTHER GOAL BUT I DON’T KNOW IF IT’LL WORK AHHH

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93′ Long throw

Lewis Miller’s first touch is launching a gigantic long throw into the box, which is chaotically headed out towards the D.

I’m not sure who that is running in – Tilio, maybe? – trying to use their momentum to deflect the ball off their chest and back towards the pack of players, but an Uzbekistan defender gets in the way. The ball is cleared.

92′ Australia substitutions

Jordan Bos and Nathaniel Atkinson are off.

Marco Tilio and Lewis Miller are on – the latter for his Asian Cup debut.

90′ Masharipov pulling strings

The substitute has been excellent since coming on, involved in all of Uzbekistan’s best attacks.

He’s at the heart of one again, connecting beautifully with two team-mates in a tight space as they make their way collectively towards the top left corner of Australia’s box.

His pass almost slices two Socceroos apart, but Kye Rowles flies in to the rescue and hoofs the ball upfield.

90′ Seven minutes of added time

Thanks for reading, Phil!

Thanks for this coverage!

– Phil J

88′ Atkinson is down

The right-back tried a long cross-field switch but totally shanked it and it rolled out for a throw-in near the half-way line.

The defender falls into the grass with his legs stretched out in front of him. It looks like cramp. Yep – an Uzbek player comes along and stretches out his calf for him. He’s up a minute later. He’ll have to keep pushing.

86′ Behich gets forward

Jordan Bos and Aziz Behich have been more involved towards the back-end of this half, with the two trying to muscle and race their way down the left wing.

Behich’s endurance has been particularly impressive given his age and the fact he’s the only defender aside from Harry Souttar to have played every minute of this tournament so far.

He gets in behind Uzbekistan’s three defenders here thanks to a cheeky backwards pass by Bos, but his cross is a tired one and sails all the way across the field for a throw-in.

82′ Uzbekistan substitution

The substitute has to be substituted as Igor Sergeev is carried off the field with that calf problem.

He’s replaced by Jamshid Iskanderov.

82′ Australia double change

The brilliant Riley McGree is replaced by Bruno Fornaroli.

Keanu Baccus is off, too, in place of Aiden O’Neill.

81′ Play paused

Some cheeky footwork by Jordan Bos to nip around Uzbekistan’s substitute Igor Sergeev sees the blue-shirted defender reach down to his calf as he tumbled into the grass.

The Socceroos could have kept charging forward there, but the referee whistles play dead as the physios run onto the field. The stretcher is out, too. It looks like the sub may have popped a calf. Unlucky.

78′ GOAL UZBEKISTAN!

Just as I say that – Uzbekistan have equalised!

Australia’s record run of clean sheets and minutes without conceding comes to an end as the substitute Azizbek Turgunboev rises above Aziz Behich to head home a gorgeous dropping cross from Masharipov on the left wing.

1-1!

Elsewhere…

Syria have taken a 1-0 lead over India, which takes them just below Uzbekistan on goal difference in Group B.

If Syria score twice more, and the current score in our game stays at 1-0 (or Australia score another), Syria could leap-frog Uzbekistan into second.

How good is tournament football!

73′ Uzbekistan keep trying

A very neat series of zig-zag passes by Uzbekistan down the left side sees them slice smoothly through the swarming Socceroos, with Masharipov on the ball near the top corner of the box.

His final pass undoes all that good build-up play, though, as he sends the ball through two yellow shirts where he thought a team-mate would be ghosting in behind but finds green grass instead.

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#Socceroos #draw #Uzbekistan #top #Asian #Cup #group

World Darts Championship: Luke Littler’s dreams ended by Luke Humphries in sensational final

Luke Littler defeated 7-4 by world No 1 Luke Humphries in final; Premier League Darts returns to Sky Sports on Thursday February 1 as Cardiff kicks off the 17-week extravaganza all the way through to the Play-Offs on Thursday May 23 at London’s O2

Last Updated: 03/01/24 10:51pm


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Humphries hits the winning darts to defeat Luke Littler 7-4 in the World Darts Championship final

Humphries hits the winning darts to defeat Luke Littler 7-4 in the World Darts Championship final

Luke Littler’s World Darts Championship dreams were finally ended by world No 1 Luke Humphries in a sensational final at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday night.

Humphries fought back from 4-2 down to win five consecutive sets and win his maiden world title 7-4 to make it four major victories in a row following his success at the World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts, and Players Championship Finals in recent months.

“I’ll draw a lot from this and this will be a moment that will never be forgotten,” Humphries told Sky Sports. “I don’t want to say that I’ve completed darts but everything that you want on the resume I’ve done now, so now it’s now about motivating yourself to do more and more.

World Darts Championship Final

Luke Humphries 7-4 Luke Littler

Humphries said he couldn't ask for more after claiming the World Darts Championship title

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Humphries said he couldn’t ask for more after claiming the World Darts Championship title

Humphries said he couldn’t ask for more after claiming the World Darts Championship title

Littler said: “It has been unbelievable. The one negative was I lost too many legs with my throw so Luke could break me.

“That was the only negative, I just couldn’t hold my own throw and I didn’t win. Every game has been good but that one has just really annoyed me, especially the three missed to keep it going.

“That’s what the crowd wanted but fair play to Luke, he deserves it.”

Humphries started the better by capitalising on a slow start from Littler to take the opening set 3-1 with a 99.2 average despite eight missed darts at doubles.

It didn’t take ‘The Nuke’ long to discover his best in the second set, coming from 2-1 down by producing two 12-dart legs with the aid of a spectacular 142 checkout and a ‘Shanghai’ 120 finish.

Littler hit a 142 and a 120 checkouts to win the second set

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Littler hit a 142 and a 120 checkouts to win the second set

Littler hit a 142 and a 120 checkouts to win the second set

The third set also went the distance with ‘Cool Hand’ edging it from 2-0 down to regain the upper hand with a 116 checkout to take it, but the Warrington teenage sensation struck back to secure the fourth set 3-1 and restore parity with a 99 average and an impressive 47 per cent on the doubles.

It was 2-2 in sets and 9-9 in legs with nothing to separate the two players.

Littler nailed this 122 checkout to the despair of Humphries

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Littler nailed this 122 checkout to the despair of Humphries

Littler nailed this 122 checkout to the despair of Humphries

For the first time in the match, the player who started the set won it after nine break of throws in 22 legs, with World Youth Champion Littler going ahead for the first time in the match before wrapping up the fifth set, averaging a ton.

The new world No 1 found himself under pressure here as Littler made it nine legs from the last 11 to open up a two-set advantage at 4-2.

Humphries reeled in his second 170 finish in a matter of days in a seventh set which was full of carnage.

Humphries took out 'The Big Fish' in the final

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Humphries took out ‘The Big Fish’ in the final

Humphries took out ‘The Big Fish’ in the final

Littler responded with a third ton-plus finish of the final – a 122 checkout – which Wayne Mardle described as “spiteful, dirty, nasty!” in the commentary box, before Humphries survived a set dart before sealing it on double 14 to reduce the deficit.

And Humphries piled in a classy 121 checkout on the bull to make it back-to-back sets to get back on level terms with a 114.17 set average but it also coincided with Littler slightly dropping off.

Humphries took out this 121 checkout in a sensational final

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Humphries took out this 121 checkout in a sensational final

Humphries took out this 121 checkout in a sensational final

The 28-year-old Newbury thrower threw back-to-back 108 checkouts to lead 2-0 in the ninth set and although the teenager battled back to level up, a 180 to start the set and a 36 checkout enabled Humphries to win the leg and set in 11 darts.

Humphries pinned back-to-back 108 checkouts

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Humphries pinned back-to-back 108 checkouts

Humphries pinned back-to-back 108 checkouts

A relentless Humphries made it four sets on the spin as he took full control of the final to go within a set of the title, despite Littler reeling in a ‘Big Fish’ of his own.

However, it was ‘Cool Hand’ who got his hands on the Sid Waddell Trophy to become the 12th different PDC World Champion after pinning double 8 in the 11th set.

Talking about Littler, Humphries said: “I’m not just saying this because it will please everyone, but Luke has been an unbelievable talent.

“Not just about the dartboard, he has been fantastic with all the media that has come about with him and he took the defeat so well.

“He said go on and celebrate. You will never see another down-to-earth 16-year-old kid like him who is just something else.

“I really hope he’s in the Premier League because, if he don’t want to play in it fair enough, but I think he’d be a pleasure to play alongside this year.

“He’s one of the best players in the world, there is no doubt about that.”

Littler nailed his own 170 checkout in an incredible final

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Littler nailed his own 170 checkout in an incredible final

Littler nailed his own 170 checkout in an incredible final

Social media reaction to Humphries win…

Premier League Darts returns to Sky Sports on Thursday February 1 as Cardiff kicks off the 17-week extravaganza all the way through to the Play-Offs on Thursday May 23. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW



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Luke Littler reaches World Darts Championship final after beating Rob Cross at Alexandra Palace

Luke Littler, 16, moves one win away from Alexandra Palace glory after crushing Rob Cross 6-2 in semi-finals; Littler will face Luke Humphries in final; We’re back at 7.30pm on Wednesday for the World Darts Championship final – live on Sky Sports Darts

Last Updated: 03/01/24 12:15am


Luke Littler defeated 2018 champion Rob Cross to reach the World Darts Championship final

Teenager Luke Littler made it through to the World Darts Championship final after crushing Rob Cross to go within one match of a remarkable maiden title at Alexandra Palace.

Littler averaged 106.05, hitting 16 maximums and ton-plus finishes of 149, 142 and 132 en route to a magnificent 6-2 victory against 2018 winner Cross at the age of 16.

He will face another in-form player in Luke Humphries, who hit top gear to whitewash Scott Williams 6-0 in the second semi-final to become the new world No 1 and stretch his unbeaten run to 18 matches.

“No words! Crazy to think I’m in a World Championship final in my debut,” Littler told Sky Sports. “I was happy winning one game but I could go all the way!

“You’re playing Rob, he’s a world champion and won on debut. Rob told me ‘God bless, you’re a step away, do it’.

“I’ve just settled on the stage. It took me a few legs to settle in the game and once I found that rhythm I was good to go.”

World Darts Championship Semi-Finals Results

Rob Cross 2-6 Luke Littler
Scott Williams vs Luke Humphries

Littler was greeted by the Warrington Wolves’ mascot during an electrifying walk-on, but it was Cross who stormed out of the blocks and edged a quality set in a deciding leg with a 108.6 average.

It was the first time Littler had lost the first set in the tournament.

Littler showed no signs of nerves as he took out this majestic 142 checkout

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Littler showed no signs of nerves as he took out this majestic 142 checkout

Littler showed no signs of nerves as he took out this majestic 142 checkout

The teenager recovered from 2-1 down in the next set and a crucial 74 checkout in the deciding leg saw him draw level with a 101 average and four 180s.

Cross, the 2018 champion, appeared flummoxed by Littler’s incredible accuracy on the treble 20 bed and it wasn’t long before the 16-year-old moved ahead by cracking in a stunning 142 checkout before hitting the front with a 101.6 average.

The teenager nails an incredible 147 finish during his semi-final with Cross

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The teenager nails an incredible 147 finish during his semi-final with Cross

The teenager nails an incredible 147 finish during his semi-final with Cross

Littler opened the fourth set with an 11-darter and he then struck with a mammoth 149 on double 16 to move 2-1 up in legs.

‘Voltage’ levelled and he then hit six perfect darts in the next leg, but it was the world youth champion who extended his lead with a magnificent 11-darter to move 3-1 ahead averaging 103.8 with nine 180s and 65 per cent on the doubles.

What an extraordinary leg! Cross nearly hits a nine but Littler wins it in 11 darts

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What an extraordinary leg! Cross nearly hits a nine but Littler wins it in 11 darts

What an extraordinary leg! Cross nearly hits a nine but Littler wins it in 11 darts

Cross, who made a remarkable comeback from 4-0 down to beat Chris Dobey 5-4 in their quarter-final on Monday, pinned an unorthodox 138 checkout in the second leg of the fifth set.

Littler missed one set dart at tops to extend his lead, allowing former electrician Cross to pounce and close the gap to 3-2 in sets.

‘The Nuke’ wrapped up the sixth set 3-1 with a 107 average compared to Cross’ 91.58 to restore a two-set cushion with 14 maximums.

Littler had one foot in the final after closing out the seventh set by the same scoreline, averaging 110.55 for sets six and seven.

Littler was running riot at Ally Pally and he produced this outrageous 132 finish in the eighth set on his way to victory

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Littler was running riot at Ally Pally and he produced this outrageous 132 finish in the eighth set on his way to victory

Littler was running riot at Ally Pally and he produced this outrageous 132 finish in the eighth set on his way to victory

The teen star was showboating by now and he raised the roof with a 132 checkout by using the bullseye on his way to Wednesday’s final against three-time major champion Luke Humphries or Scott Williams.

Looking ahead to the final, Littler added: “I’ll do what I’ve been doing. In the morning, go for a ham and cheese omelette, then come here have a pizza and then practice. That’s what I’ve done every day.”

Littler got better the longer the match went on. In the last three sets (13 legs) he averaged 112.62

106.05 match average

12x 180s

47% doubles

Humphries produced a statement victory against ‘Shaggy’ Williams with a 108.74 average, 14 180s, a breath-taking display on the doubles and a sensational six ton-plus finishes.

“It was amazing. I would never have imagined myself to be the world No 1. That is a special feeling. And to do it in style,” said a delighted Humphries.

“I’m really pleased with that performance. But, world No 1 can last for a couple months, World Champion is forever so I’ve got a really tough task tomorrow against Luke.”

Luke Humphries is in scary form after he hit six-ton-plus finishes in his demolition against Scott Williams

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Luke Humphries is in scary form after he hit six-ton-plus finishes in his demolition against Scott Williams

Luke Humphries is in scary form after he hit six-ton-plus finishes in his demolition against Scott Williams

Live World Darts Championship

January 3, 2024, 7:30pm

Live on Sky Sports Arena

How social media reacted to Littler’s win…

The sport’s biggest event sees the final two players compete for the Sid Waddell Trophy and £2.5m in prize money at Alexandra Palace on Wednesday night. You can watch all the action live on our dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel.

Watch the World Darts Championship final on January 3, 2024 – live on Sky Sports Darts. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW



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World Darts Championship: Michael van Gerwen suffers shock exit to Scott Williams in quarter-finals


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A look back the best of the action from the evening session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace

A look back the best of the action from the evening session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals at Alexandra Palace

Michael van Gerwen’s hopes of a fourth World Darts Championship title were dashed in stunning fashion by Scott Williams at the quarter-final stage on New Year’s Day.

Williams pulled off a sensational 5-3 scalp of Van Gerwen at Alexandra Palace, punishing 27 missed darts at doubles from the three-time champion to set up a meeting with Luke Humphries.

World Darts Championship: New Year’s Day Evening Results

Michael van Gerwen 3-5 Scott Williams
Luke Humphries 5-1 Dave Chisnall

Rob Cross, only former PDC world champion left and in the semi-finals for the first time since winning the title on debut

Luke Littler, 16 years old, in the semi-finals on his debut

Scott Williams in his first major semi-final

Luke Humphries, the pre-tournament favourite, into his first Ally Pally semi-final

Seasonal prize money prior to the World Championship: £32,750

Minimum prize money at the World Championship: £100,000

Scott Williams is in to the semi-finals and the world’s top 32

Scott Williams produced one of the biggest shocks in World Darts Championship history by beating Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals

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Scott Williams produced one of the biggest shocks in World Darts Championship history by beating Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals

Scott Williams produced one of the biggest shocks in World Darts Championship history by beating Michael van Gerwen in the quarter-finals

Williams came charging out of the blocks by winning the opening set in straight legs, but ‘Mighty Mike’ took out 81 for back-to-back 11-darters to close out the second set 3-1 with a set average of 116.71 despite missing 12 darts at double.

Van Gerwen took out a magnificent 121 checkout before pinning double 16 to seize the initiative in the third set.

Van Gerwen hits this magnificent 121 finish during his quarter-final clash against Williams

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Van Gerwen hits this magnificent 121 finish during his quarter-final clash against Williams

Van Gerwen hits this magnificent 121 finish during his quarter-final clash against Williams

However, the Dutchman threw in a stinker of a set, averaging just 78, and Williams railroaded it 3-0 to get back on level terms at 2-2.

Van Gerwen appeared to have fallen off a cliff when Lincolnshire showman Williams made it six legs on the spin to lead 3-2, but the three-time World Champion soon restored parity in three consecutive legs to stop the rot.

‘Shaggy’ punished more crucial mistakes from the world No 2 to seal the seventh set 3-1 and go within one of a sensational victory before taking the eighth 3-1 to secure a last-four meeting with either Luke Humphries or Dave Chisnall.

Williams said he probably should have beaten Van Gerwen a bit easier after knocking out the pre-tournament favourite

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Williams said he probably should have beaten Van Gerwen a bit easier after knocking out the pre-tournament favourite

Williams said he probably should have beaten Van Gerwen a bit easier after knocking out the pre-tournament favourite

“I just knocked the best player in the world out,” Williams told Sky Sports.

“He wasn’t the Michael van Gerwen we’ve seen over the last couple of games but that’s not my problem.

“I hit the doubles and probably should have won it a little bit easier. I’m absolutely loving it up there. I love a crowd.”

Wayne Wardle was surprised at how 'erratic' Van Gerwen was during his loss

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Wayne Wardle was surprised at how ‘erratic’ Van Gerwen was during his loss

Wayne Wardle was surprised at how ‘erratic’ Van Gerwen was during his loss

Wayne Mardle called Williams’ win a “massive shock”, but also admitted he did a “number” on the Dutch ace.

“Michael van Gerwen normally loses to someone who is a big hitter already, a world champion or a major champion,” ‘Hawaii 501’ said.

“Scott Williams did a number on him. He was there to clean up when he had to clean up and he held it together so well.

“Even Luke Littler and Rob Cross are giving it… ‘WHAT!?’ What an opportunity for everyone left in the tournament.”

Michael van Gerwen missed 30 doubles in his first three games. He missed 27 against Scott Williams

52.4 per cent (33/63) – First 3 games

29.0 per cent (11/38) – vs Williams

Luke Humphries made it through to the semi-finals with this magical 117 checkout

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Luke Humphries made it through to the semi-finals with this magical 117 checkout

Luke Humphries made it through to the semi-finals with this magical 117 checkout

Williams will take on Humphries in the semi-finals after ‘Cool Hand’ thrashed Dave Chisnall 5-1 with a 103.50 average, a dozen 180s, 40 per cent on the doubles and a high checkout of 164.

The World Grand Prix, Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship winner made it 17 victories in a row to break new ground at Ally Pally.

“It felt strange to be the frontrunner for once,” said Humphries. “I have been used to a lot of comebacks for the last few days and it has just been nice to be me.

“It was nice to be in front and keep pushing hard and I didn’t relent. Chizzy played really well, he made it really tough for me.

“I haven’t been myself in the first couple of games. Tonight, we saw the form I have been showing in the last few majors.

“I played as well as I needed to.”

Humphries thinks the Worlds is wide open after Van Gerwen's exit to Williams

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Humphries thinks the Worlds is wide open after Van Gerwen’s exit to Williams

Humphries thinks the Worlds is wide open after Van Gerwen’s exit to Williams

How Littler set up Cross semi-final…

A look back the best of the action from the afternoon session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals

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A look back the best of the action from the afternoon session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals

A look back the best of the action from the afternoon session of the World Darts Championship quarter-finals

World Darts Championship: New Year’s Day Afternoon Results

Rob Cross 5-4 Chris Dobey
Luke Littler 5-1 Brendan Dolan

In the afternoon, Luke Littler’s amazing Alexandra Palace journey continued after he became the youngest semi-finalist ever after he beat Brendan Dolan 5-1 in the quarter-final.

‘The History Maker’ Dolan had beaten former World Champions Gerwyn Price and Gary Anderson but could not compete with Littler, who finished with an average of 101.93 to thrill his adoring fans inside Ally Pally.

All the best moments from Luke Littler in his quarter-final clash against Brendon Dolan

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All the best moments from Luke Littler in his quarter-final clash against Brendon Dolan

All the best moments from Luke Littler in his quarter-final clash against Brendon Dolan

“It feels unbelievable. I would never have thought I would have got to the semis on my debut year,” he said.

“Brendan was just another opponent in my way and I have brushed him aside and now I am into the semi-final.

“It’s going to take a lot to stop me, based on my performances so far. But it is about whatever Luke Littler turns up.

“I have got the ability to go all the way, if it’s not to be tomorrow night, it’s not to be.

“I know I have got a good chance and I have got a good feeling I could go all the way tomorrow.”

Littler believes he is one of the best in the game at board management and he's thinking about lifting the title

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Littler believes he is one of the best in the game at board management and he’s thinking about lifting the title

Littler believes he is one of the best in the game at board management and he’s thinking about lifting the title

He will meet Rob Cross for a spot in the final after ‘Voltage’ looked dead and buried when he was 4-0 down after barely 45 minutes as Chris Dobey played one of the matches of his life.

However, the off-stage break worked wonders for Cross as the former electrician sparked into life.

He reeled off four sets of his own and then took out 130 to seal a remarkable win but he will have to improve if he is stop the Littler train.

“Everyone loves an underdog story,” he said. “As the public and people looking at the game, everyone loves an underdog story.

“I am not being rude, I am on his side, I love an underdog story.

“It took a bit of pressure off me winning it first time as well.

“He’s fantastic and he deserves all the luck in the world, he is a nice young boy. Tomorrow we play darts, though, and I have to go down to business.”

Cross came back from 4-0 down to Chris Dobey to complete a 'darting miracle!'

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Cross came back from 4-0 down to Chris Dobey to complete a ‘darting miracle!’

Cross came back from 4-0 down to Chris Dobey to complete a ‘darting miracle!’

The teenager was taking selfies after beating Brendan Dolan

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The teenager was taking selfies after beating Brendan Dolan

The teenager was taking selfies after beating Brendan Dolan

What’s happening on semi-finals night at the World Darts Championship?

Luke Littler returns to the Ally Pally stage when he aims for a spot in the World Championship final

Luke Littler returns to the Ally Pally stage when he aims for a spot in the World Championship final

Littler will take on 2018 winner Cross in the first semi-final having already proven he is ready to compete on the biggest stage after taking out UK Open winner Andrew Gilding and his hero Raymond van Barneveld on his way to the last eight and he maintained that form against Dolan on New Year’s Day.

Cross produced one of the most memorable Alexandra Palace comebacks having gone 4-0 to Chris Dobey before reeling off four sets of his own and then taking out 130 to seal a famous win.

Live World Darts Championship

January 1, 2024, 7:00pm

Live on Sky Sports Arena

Luke Humphries will face Scott Williams in the second semi-final on Tuesday

Luke Humphries will face Scott Williams in the second semi-final on Tuesday

Having knocked out three-time World Champion Michael van Gerwen, ‘Shaggy’ Scott Williams will take on ‘Cool Hand’ Luke Humphries as he continues his quest for a maiden Ally Pally title.

Humphries came into the tournament as the favourite after winning three of the last four majors but had endured a bumpy ride to the last eight, surviving a sudden death leg against Joe Cullen in the last round.

But he was back to his best in his quarter-final, dispatching Dave Chisnall 5-1.

The sport’s biggest event sees the remaining players compete for the Sid Waddell Trophy and £2.5m in prize money at Alexandra Palace. You can watch all the action live on our dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel.

Watch the World Darts Championship all the way until the final on January 3, 2024 – live on Sky Sports Darts. Stream Sky Sports Darts without a contract through NOW



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