ost nation Japan won the first event of the pandemic-postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, crushing Australia 8-1 in a spectatorless softball game held in Fukushima.
“I feel relieved,” said Japan’s starting pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who surrendered just two hits over 4-1/3 innings, but saw her team easily prevail with a trio of two-run homers.
Olympics and Japanese officials could also stop holding their collective breath after more than a year of uncertainty over whether the Games could be staged with deadly waves of coronavirus infections forcing athletes to train alone and spectators to stay home.
The opening ceremony is on Friday.
Ueno, ace of the softball team’s 2008 gold medal run, struggled to throw strikes early and hit two Australians.
Coach Reika Utsugi said Ueno was too cautious after the pandemic had limited scrimmages.
Ueno blamed her excitement on the “very long time” between Olympics – a remark she illustrated for reporters by outstretching her arms.
Ueno quickly bounced back.
Australian designated player Tarni Stepto said her side failed to exert patience at the plate, leaving bases loaded in the first after scoring the game’s initial run.
The game ended after five innings due to a mercy rule.
Only buzzing cicadas and polite applause from a few hundred staff were heard as Japan’s shots cleared the fence.
The United States defeated Italy 2-0 in Wednesday’s second game, with Mexico versus Canada to follow.
U.S. left-hander Cat Osterman, who is back from retirement, struck out nine and let a single hit over six shutout innings, leaving her with two runs allowed in 39.4 innings across three Olympics.
On the bench, Italy and the United States draped heads with towels or their gloves to cool off in a balmy 34 degrees Celsius (94 Fahrenheit).
Teams face each other once over six days before the top four advance to medal games.
The first two days are at a baseball stadium in Fukushima, a region badly affected by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.
After the 2008 Beijing Olympics featured a softball-specific venue, the temporary fencing in the outfield and an electronically lowered pitching mound in Fukushima have attracted scorn from fans.
There was at least one hiccup. Though rules require one, a chalk pitching circle was not laid until the first game’s fourth inning.
To offer some semblance of fan support, concourses at stadiums including the one at Fukushima have been lined with young plants bearing messages from children urging athletes to “go for gold”.
Chelsea set new EPL record after beating Brentford
Chelsea on Saturday set a new Premier League record after beating their London rival Brentford 1-0 in an away Premier League tie.
The Blues defeated the newly-promoted Brentford, thanks to Ben Chilwell’s 45th-minute strike.
The win over Brentford means Chelsea have now become the first club from the English capital to win seven consecutive away London derbies in English Football League history.
Chelsea are now on top of the Premier League table with 19 points from eight fixtures.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are one point ahead of second position Liverpool and two points ahead of third-place Manchester City.
Chelsea will tackle Malmo on Wednesday in a UEFA Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge.
‘Mohamed Salah now better than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’, Jurgen Klopp insists
Jurgen Klopp insists Mohamed Salah is now the best player in the world football after his latest moment of magic.
Just two weeks after his breathtaking strike against Manchester City, the Egyptian King scored another wonderful solo effort in a 5-0 demolition of Watford.
The goal left Jermaine Jenas purring on co-commentary with those watching in awe of his magic.
It was Salah’s 10th goal of the season after a stunning run of form whilst he also provided assists for Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
After the game, manager Jurgen Klopp was asked where he ranks amongst the best in the world.
And he was in little doubt he deserves the top spot on current form – despite the past performances of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Asked where Salah ranks in his BT Sport interview, Klopp replied: “Top. Come on, we all see it, who’s better than him in this moment?
“That’s clear, there’s always this discussion and all these kinds of things.
“But we don’t have to talk about what Ronaldo and Messi did for world football or how long they were really in the dominant.
“In the moment I think it’s clear there’s nobody better than him. How it is, it’s not only since yesterday, he’s been in that shape for a while.
“He’s young enough to keep the shape a little bit longer.”
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Leicester 4-2 Man Utd: Foxes add to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s misery
Leicester City ended Manchester United’s 29-game unbeaten run away from home at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
The Reds Devils took an early lead through a stunning Mason Greenwood goal but Youri Tielemans’ spectacular equaliser made it 1-1 just after the half-hour mark.
A faltering and lethargic United had David De Gea to thank for some late interventions in the hope of ensuring United came away from the match with a point.
But Caglar Soyuncu’s late strike appeared to have snatched the Foxes all three points before Marcus Rashford swiftly equalised on his return to action.
Jamie Vardy had other ideas, however, scoring a superb volley within 60 seconds of the restart as the pressure ramps up on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose side have gone three top-flight games without a win.
Patson Saka then wrapped it up in the dying minutes.
The two teams came into the match winless from their past two Premier League outings and were aiming to recover quickly following the international break.
Leicester went unbeaten against United last season in three league and FA Cup meetings to end a run of three successive Red Devils victories since Solskjaer took charge.
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