Sunday, September 30, 2007

Biffle grabs win at Kansas as Chase field crumbles

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Greg Biffle scored his first victory of the season Sunday -- even though he ran out of gas before crossing the finish line -- in a wild race that jumbled the Chase for the championship standings.

Kansas Results

Greg Biffle survived more than six hours of rain delays and cautions at Kansas Sunday to snap his 28-race winless drought.

  • 1. Greg Biffle, Ford
  • 2. Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet
  • 3. Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet
  • 4. Casey Mears, Chevrolet
  • 5. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet
  • 6. Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet
  • 7. Reed Sorenson, Dodge
  • 8. Elliott Sadler, Dodge
  • 9. Kasey Kahne, Dodge
  • 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet
  • Complete results

The Chase field imploded at Kansas Speedway, where rain and impending darkness cut the race short by 85 miles. Seven of the 12 Chase drivers finished 30th or worse and defending Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson reclaimed the points lead.

He was one of the few Chase drivers to make it unscathed to the finish line, and when he got there, he questioned the finishing order.

The race ended under caution because Juan Pablo Montoya blew a tire with four laps to go in a race that already had been shortened by 57 laps. Montoya's caution should have set up an overtime finish, but NASCAR declined to restart the race because of impending darkness.

The event was finished under caution, and Biffle's car began to sputter on the last lap. As his car coasted toward the line, local star Clint Bowyer and Johnson both passed him before he reached the checkered flag. Johnson immediately said Kansas native Bowyer should be celebrating in Victory Lane, not Biffle, and Bowyer agreed.

"It was definitely dark, and it was starting to be a concern, but it wasn't dark enough that I couldn't see [Biffle] having trouble," Bowyer said. "I just didn't know what to do. I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't think they expected us to pull down in the grass and follow him.

"I don't know what happened, [Biffle] didn't cross it the way I thought you were supposed to, but I know they're not going to pull him out of Victory Lane."

The ending was par for the course on this wild Sunday.

Chase Standings

Jimmie Johnson moved back atop Chase standings with his third-place finish at Kansas on Sunday. Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer are the only two drivers within 100 points of Johnson, as seven of the 12 Chase drivers finished 30th or worse.

Driver Points Behind
1. Jimmie Johnson 5506 --
2. Jeff Gordon 5500 6
3. Clint Bowyer 5492 14
4. Tony Stewart 5389 117
5. Kevin Harvick 5380 126
6. Kyle Busch 5370 136
7. Carl Edwards 5364 142
8. Martin Truex Jr. 5348 158
9. Kurt Busch 5329 177
10. Jeff Burton 5320 186
11. Matt Kenseth 5287 219
12. Denny Hamlin 5258 248

Rain caused two delays totaling almost three hours, Kyle Busch was wrecked minutes after the race by the driver who got him fired from Hendrick Motorsports, and two-time series champion Tony Stewart gambled twice -- the first one put him in position to win, and the second one took him out of contention.

When the dust finally settled, the points standings had been blown open for a Chase field that entered the event with the top six drivers separated by just 28 points.

Now Johnson has a six-point lead over teammate Jeff Gordon, and Bowyer is in third, 14 points out.

Stewart, who started the day just two points out of the lead, finished 39th and dropped to fourth -- 117 points out.

Kevin Harvick finished sixth to jump four spots in the standings to fifth, 126 points out.

Busch, who came into the race 10 points out of the lead, finished 41st. He's sixth in the standings, 136 points out, and blamed his poor day squarely on Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt ran into the back of Busch very early in the race when he closed in on his rear bumper in an attempt to pass. The contact sent Busch sliding down the track, and his car then rocketed back across and into the wall.

Busch was furious at Earnhardt, who was hired in June to drive for Hendrick next season. The move cost Busch his spot with the elite four-car team.

"I left a lane for him on the outside because I knew he was going to have a good run coming off the corner. He ran me over for no reason whatsoever," Busch said. "Just an unfortunate circumstance and I am sure these guys aren't very appreciative of the guy who is going to be racing for them next year just dumped their car that has a great shot for the championship."

Greg Biffle

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Greg Biffle celebrates his first win of '07.

Earnhardt was apologetic, but the damage was done. Fortunately for Busch, most of the Chase field struggled, as well.

Matt Kenseth (35th) and Martin Truex Jr. (38th) wrecked on the first lap after the race resumed following the second rain delay. Stewart was involved in that accident, causing fender damage that his crew chief decided not to attempt to fix.

The damage caused a rub that led to his tire to explode. Kurt Busch(11th) ran into the back of him, sending him spinning into the path of Carl Edwards. Stewart was fuming after the wreck, angrily removing his steering wheel and throwing his gloves, helmet and safety gear as he exited his car.

Stewart, who put himself in position to win the race by not pitting for gas right before the second rain delay, declined comment as he left the race track.

Edwards, last week's race winner, finished 37th and lamented the sequence of events. He said his spotter thought Stewart should have pulled off the track for repairs when the tire rub sent billowing white smoke from his car.

"Tony had a tire rubbing for a long time, must have been going down or something," Edwards said. "He thought maybe Tony should have pulled in and fixed his car, but if our car started smoking, we would have been begging to stay out, too. So I see both sides of it. That's just how it goes, man."

Denny Hamlin wrecked shortly after, and Jeff Burton had an early fuel problem as Gordon, Harvick and Johnson were the only Chase drivers to have uneventful days.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Thompson's 18 points help U.S win FIBA crown

VALDIVIA, Chile -- Tina Thompson scored 18 points to help the United States qualify for the 2008 Olympics with a 101-71 victory over Cuba on Sunday in the gold medal game at the FIBA Americas tournament.

The U.S. (5-0) was forced to qualify for an Olympics berth for the first time since 1980 because of a third-place finish at the World Championships last year.

"It's a huge relief for us that we could win and punch the ticket to Beijing," USA Basketball president Val Ackerman said. "They did a terrific job. We had so many late arrivals to camp, it's great that the players did what they needed to do."

The Americans struggled with Cuba when the teams met in their opening round game, needing a fourth-quarter rally to win 85-79. The U.S. had no problem on Sunday, jumping out to a 16-0 lead 4 minutes into the game. Diana Taurasi hit two 3-pointers during the spurt. She finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Cuba didn't sink its first basket until Oyanaisy Gelis made a jumper with 5:50 left in the first quarter. The U.S. was able to extend its lead to 20, but Cuba rallied by hitting two 3s to come within 31-19.

The U.S. responded with a 7-0 run to restore its big lead. The Americans led 49-30 at the half and put the game away in the third quarter, extending their lead to 75-43 at the end of the period.

Katie Smith added 15 points for the United States.

Suchitel Avila led Cuba (3-2) with 14 points, and Gelis added 13.

Yakelyn Plutin, who led Cuba with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting with the U.S., was scoreless in the first half and didn't make her first shot until the third quarter when she fell down on the baseline and flung the ball up. She finished with 11 points, most coming in the fourth quarter.

After struggling in the opening game against Cuba, the U.S. ran through the tournament, beating Argentina 104-53 in the semifinals.

Cuba advanced to the gold medal game with a 69-67 upset victory over Brazil.

The U.S. joins China, Australia, New Zealand, Mali and Korea as teams that have qualified for the Olympics. The last automatic bid will go to the European winner. Cuba, Argentina and Brazil, by finishing in the top four at the FIBA Americas tournament, will get to play in a last chance Olympic qualifier next June.

By winning the gold, the Americans alleviated a potential headache for the WNBA and USA basketball. The last chance qualifier would have been a logistical nightmare for both organizations, coming in the middle of the WNBA season.

Brazil won the bronze medal, routing Argentina 73-41. Canada finished in fifth place with a 86-68 win over Chile, and Mexico beat Jamaica 62-55 for seventh place.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Pumas proud after win over Irish

Felipe Contepomi described Argentina's victory over Ireland as one of the most memorable moments of his career.

The Pumas now play Scotland for a place in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.

Contepomi, who kicked three penalties and a conversion, said: "It is a very proud moment for the team, for Argentina rugby and for the nation.

"People are talking about us as favourites for the quarter-final now, but if we are favourites we need to take on that responsibility."

News conference: Coach Eddie O'Sullivan

Contepomi, who plays his club rugby in Ireland with Leinster, continued: "We need to work really hard and try to play our best game next week."

"I know people back home are following this like a football World Cup."

Argentina had already secured a major scalp when they upset France in the tournament's opening game, and the win over Ireland meant they finished top of Pool D.

Coach Marcelo Loffreda added: "This is a very important step for Argentine rugby.

"There is huge merit in what this team has achieved, getting through the so-called 'pool of death' with a lot of authority.

"We knew Ireland were very dangerous and could destabilise our game so we had to keep control."

Captain Agustin Pichot said the Pumas had once again made the world take note of them as a team that should be involved in a major annual competition.

"We showed the world we exist just as we said after the first match," he said.

Source: BBC Sport

Weir tops Woods, but U.S. takes Presidents Cup

MONTREAL -- The United States won the Presidents Cup. Mike Weir gave Canada quite a consolation prize.

The Americans won enough of the singles matches Sunday to capture the Presidents Cup for the second straight time, giving them an international victory in cup competition for the first time since 1993.

That didn't stop the relentless cheers that rocked Royal Montreal on a spectacular autumn day, especially when Weir won the final two holes to beat Tiger Woods and send his country home feeling like a winner.

Weir won the Masters four years ago, and he wasn't sure which felt sweeter.

"It's right there with it,'' Weir said. "Obviously, winning the Masters was such a thrill, but to play Tiger ... he's the best player there is, and I had to play my absolute best today to beat him.''

He needed some help from the world's No. 1 player.

With the match all square and Weir safely in the 18th fairway, Woods pulled his tee shot and watched it land in a pond, just a few yards short of a Canadian flag fans were holding behind the ropes.

Weir hit his approach to 15 feet, and after Woods' chip for par stopped rolling 2 inches from the cup, he conceded the putt.

By then, the Americans were celebrating something far more important.

Former Oklahoma State star Scott Verplank completed a 4-0 week with birdies on the 16th and 17th to beat Rory Sabbatini, 2 and 1. Phil Mickelson hammered Vijay Singh, closing him out on the 14th hole while wearing soft spikes.

The Americans needed to win only three matches to retain the gold cup, and Stewart Cink delivered the clinching point. He birdied the first five holes and beat Nick O'Hern, 6 and 4.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Bucs' Cadillac carted off vs. Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams was carted off the field with a right knee injury in the first quarter of Sunday's game against Carolina.

Carnell Williams


Running Back
Tampa Bay Buccaneers


2007 Season Stats
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
48 167 3 3 17 0

Williams had just broken through the right side for an 18-yard gain when he was hit by safety Chris Harris near the Panthers' sideline. The hit forced Williams backward as his right leg bent under him awkwardly, and Williams immediately clutched the knee as he lay on the ground after the play.

The Panthers said Williams would not return.

Panthers wideout Steve Smith, standing a short distance from Williams, immediately started motioning for medical personnel. The entire Tampa Bay team eventually came off the sideline to join Panthers players around the cart as Williams left the field.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Favre surpasses Marino with 421st career TD

MINNEAPOLIS -- Brett Favre is No. 1 -- with a bullet.

Favre broke Dan Marino's record for career touchdown passes Sunday, zipping No. 421 to Greg Jennings in the first quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Brett Favre


He hit Jennings on a 16-yard slant for the score with 4:56 left in the quarter, and like most of his touchdown throws through his brilliant 17-year career, this one had plenty of steam on it.

Ever the jubilant celebrator, Favre sprinted to the end zone and hoisted Jennings on his left shoulder. He joined in hugs with his teammates on the sideline, as thousands of Packers faithful who made the trip from Wisconsin cheered loudly.

Even those dressed in purple stood and applauded when the announcement was made, and a taped message from Marino played on the big screen.

"I loved holding the touchdown record for the past 13 years," Marino said. "But if someone was going to break it, I'm glad it was someone like you, who has always competed at the highest level and always played to win."

It's the latest, and possibly the most hallowed record claimed by the league's last true gunslinger. Two weeks ago, Favre broke John Elway's mark for career victories by a quarterback when he led the Packers to a 35-13 win over the New York Giants.

The soon-to-be 38-year-old also holds the marks for career completions and consecutive starts by a quarterback, which hit 241 Sunday, moving him past former Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff into second place on the list for all players.

Former Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall holds the all-time mark with 270 consecutive starts.

Late in the second quarter, Favre broke another Marino record when he threw the 8,359th pass of his career, and is also within shouting distance of Marino's record for yards passing.

Favre tied Marino's record with three touchdown passes in the Packers' 31-24 victory over San Diego last week, including the record-tying 57-yard completion to Jennings that gave the Packers the lead late in the game.

Marino held the record since 1995, but Favre's reign could be considerably shorter. Old No. 4 has acknowledged that most, if not all, of the records he sets in his career will be challenged very shortly by the Colts' Peyton Manning.

But perhaps even more impressive than the numbers Favre has put up is the manner in which he has done it.

Favre entered the league in a different era, when guys like Marino, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon and Steve Young played the game with an aggressiveness and a swagger that is uncommon among today's quarterbacks.

While offenses have moved away from that mentality more toward "game managers," the league's biggest gambler hasn't let go of his high-risk, high-reward style. That mentality has thrilled fans in Green Bay ever since he first stepped onto the Lambeau Field turf in 1992, but it has also earned him his fair share of criticism over the years.

He has been accused of being careless with the football at times, but Favre will be the last one to apologize for entering the game two interceptions shy of tying George Blanda's career record.

Favre was pressured on his first pass attempt Sunday, and he blindly winged a pass far down field for Jennings that was intercepted by Darren Sharper. But Favre was bailed out by an illegal contact call on Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, and the Packers punted four plays later.

After Jeff Dugan fumbled to give the Packers the ball in Minnesota territory, Favre hit Donald Lee on a nice touch pass for 27 yards. Two plays later -- history.

This season, coach Mike McCarthy has reined in Favre a little bit, and it has worked brilliantly so far for the Packers, who started the season 3-0 for the first time since 2001.

And while there is no single record for quarterbacks that carries the significance of Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron's career home run record, McCarthy said Marino's touchdown mark probably comes closest.

But Favre said he didn't think the touchdown record was getting anywhere near the hype that Bonds' pursuit of Aaron received over the summer. He laughed off any further comparison to Bonds, smiling as he jokingly flexed his forearms to prove he doesn't quite measure up.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Soriano sets Cubs mark with 14th September HR

CINCINNATI -- Alfonso Soriano set a team record when he led off Sunday's game against the Reds with a homer -- his 14th in September, the most by a Cubs player in the month.

Soriano has led the Cubs' surge to their first NL Central title since 2003. He missed most of August with a strained thigh, but has been their most dependable hitter when it has mattered most.

His second-pitch homer off Cincinnati rookie Homer Bailey was his 33rd of the season. His 14th homer in September surpassed Ernie Banks' previous club record from 1957.

It was his 44th career leadoff homer and his 12th this season, extending his club record. His seven leadoff homers in September are the most by any major league player in any month.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


LSU jumps USC for No. 1 in AP poll; Cal at No. 3

NEW YORK -- LSU reached No. 1 the hard way.

The Tigers edged past Southern California in the AP Top 25 on Sunday, even though the Trojans remained undefeated.

On a wild day in college football, when half the top 10 lost, USC avoided the upset bug that struck Oklahoma, Florida, Texas and Rutgers. But a sloppy 27-24 victory at Washington on Saturday night cost the Trojans the No. 1 ranking they've held all season.

Poll Positions

The top five teams in The Associated Press poll:

For the complete AP and USA Today polls, click here.

LSU, which recovered from its own first-half malaise to beat Tulane 34-9, received 33 first-place votes from the media panel and 1,593 points. USC got 32 first-place votes, 11 fewer than last week, and 1,591 points.

The voting was the closest since the second poll of the 2002 season, when Miami and Oklahoma tied for No. 1 and each received 27 first-place votes.

LSU is No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time since Nov. 2, 1959.

The rest of the rankings released Sunday bore little resemblance to any of the previous polls, thanks to a crazy weekend in which three of the top five and seven of the top 13 teams lost.

Overall, nine ranked teams went down, seven to unranked opponents.

California moved up three spots to No. 3, Ohio State jumped for places to No. 4 and Wisconsin moved up five spots to No. 5. No. 6 South Florida was followed by Boston College, Kentucky, Florida and Oklahoma at No. 10.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Live - South Africa 0-0 USA

7 Sept - 20 Oct, 2007
Latest: South Africa 0-0 USA


To get involved, text us on 81111 (UK users only) or contribute to 606

The final match of the group stages is taking place in Montpellier, but just in case anyone thinks South Africa are slacking off before their quarter-final against Fiji, think again - it's a near-full strength side. Gulp. Beware America...

South Africa: Montgomery; Ndungane, Fourie, Steyn, Habana; James, Du Preez; Du Randt, Smit (capt), BJ Botha, Van den Berg, Matfield, Van Heerden, Smith, Burger. Replacements: Du Plessis, Van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Skinstad, Pienaar, Pretorius, Pietersen, Olivier.

USA: Chris Wyles; Takudzwa Ngwenya, Philip Eloff, Vahafolau Esikia, Salesi Sika; Mike Hercus (capt), Chad Erskine; Dan Payne, Todd Clever, Louis Stanfill; Mike Mangan, Alec Parker; Chris Osentowski, Owen Lentz, Mike MacDonald. Replacements: Blake Burdette, Matekitonga Moeakiola, Mark Aylor, Henry Bloomfield, Mike Petri, Valenese Malifa, Thretton Palamo.

Source: BBC Sport

Ex-chess champ Kasparov to run for Russian prez

MOSCOW -- The former world chess champion Garry Kasparov entered Russia's presidential race on Sunday, elected overwhelmingly as the candidate for the country's beleagured opposition coalition.

Kasparov has been a driving force behind the coalition, which has united liberals, leftists and nationalists in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. He received 379 of 498 votes at a national congress held in Moscow by the Other Russia coalition, coalition spokeswoman Lyudmila Mamina told The Associated Press.

Kasparov's place on the ballot was not assured. His candidacy still needs to be registered and could be blocked.

He was followed by Sergei Gulyayev, a former member of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly, who received 59 votes, and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov with 18, Mamina said. The coalition was chosing among six candidates who had won regional primaries in recent months.

The Other Russia also chose Kasparov to be one of three candidates to head the coalition's list in parliamentary elections in December.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Favre sets new touchdown record

Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre threw his 421st career touchdown pass against the Minnesota Vikings to move clear of Dan Marino's all-time NFL record.

Favre, in his 17th NFL season and turning 38 next month, tied the mark against San Diego a week ago.

Greg Jennings, who caught the 420th pass, was also on the end of the 421st, a 16 yarder in Minneapolis.

Two weeks ago, Favre led the Packers past the Gianst for his 149th win as a starter, passing John Elway's record.

Marino, who starred for the Miami Dolphins between 1983 to '99, played most of his career before rule changes which made it easier for teams to pass the ball regularly.

Source: BBC Sport

Everton 2-0 Middlesbrough

Everton made Middlesbrough pay for some sloppy finishing to move up to fifth spot in the Premier League.

Top-scorer Joleon Lescott coolly headed his fourth goal of the season to put the home side ahead after Boro failed to clear Mikel Arteta's vicious corner.

And Steven Pienaar steered in the second from Arteta's pass to seal the win after a sweeping Everton move.

But Boro will rue a first-half display which saw George Boateng, Gary O'Neil and Dong-Gook Kee waste great chances.

Boss Gareth Southgate will have been left scratching his head in total bewilderment as to how his Boro side failed to score in a refreshingly open first half.

Three times the visitors carved out glorious chances and three times they missed them.

The first fell to Boateng with the score at 0-0 but the Dutchman made a mess of his attempted dinked finish after bursting on to Mido's clever pass.

Everton made Boro pay within seconds when they failed to deal with Arteta's vicious inswinging corner.

Yakubu made a nuisance of himself at the near post and although Jonathan Woodgate cleared the ball off the line when it looped up in the air off Mark Schwarzer, Lescott showed great composure to guide his header past a sea of bodies and into the bottom of the net.

O'Neil then had another simple opportunity for the visitors but, after cutting inside Alan Stubbs, he shot tamely at Tim Howard from eight yards.

But the easiest opening of all saw Lee manage to somehow plant his header against the bar from six yards after a fine run and cross from Luke Young.

Everton, prompted by the ever-impresseive Arteta, were also dangerous going forward and Yakubu squandered a free header from six yards after a wonderful short corner routine saw Leighton Baines flight in a perfect cross.

And, as a riveting half drew to a close, Arteta twice tested Schwarzer from the edge of the box.

It was no surprise that the chances began to dry up after the interval.

The home side made a slightly nervy start as Boro exerted a decent spell of pressure.

But a wonderful move saw Everton double their lead just before the hour.

Pienaar won possession and some crisp passing in the midfield created space for Arteta in the box and Pienaar continued his run to cleverly guide home the Spaniard's exquisite outside-of-the-boot pass.

Boro searched for an instant reply but Everton expertly defended their lead with Mido's searing first-time volley over from long range as close as Boro came.

Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Lescott, Stubbs, Baines, Arteta (Carsley 90), Jagielka, Neville, Pienaar, McFadden (Yobo 76), Yakubu (Anichebe 66).
Subs Not Used: Wessels, Van der Meyde.

Goals: Lescott 7, Pienaar 58.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Young, Woodgate, Wheater, Taylor, O'Neil, Boateng, Rochemback, Downing, Mido (Craddock 62), Lee (Riggott 72).
Subs Not Used: Jones, Cattermole, Hines.

Booked: O'Neil, Mido, Rochemback, Lee.

Att: 31,885.

Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).

Source: BBC Sport

Downie and out: Suspended winger sent to AHL

Steve Downie Suspended 20 Games for Hit

The Flyers on Saturday assigned forward Steve Downie to the club's AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms.

Downie was suspended Friday by the NHL for 20 games for hitting Ottawa center Dean McAmmond in the head with a flying check during a road game last Tuesday that left McAmmond with a concussion.

According to a report from TSN of Canada, Downie will be ineligible to play until his case is reviewed by AHL commissioner David Andrews. The AHL can uphold or alter the suspension or dismiss it. Regardless of the AHL's call, Downie will still need to sit out 20 NHL games.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told reporters Friday that the team plans to have Downie serve the NHL suspension in blocks, calling him up from time to time to serve the 20 games. Downie has not played an NHL game with the Flyers and was expected to start the season in the minor leagues. But injuries this week to forwards Scottie Upshall, R.J. Umberger and Joffrey Lupul boosted the chances that the 20-year-old prospect could have started the year with the big club.

"He can go the American League and play," Holmgren was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Daily News. "Our plan is to make this suspension go away as quickly as possible. And because of our cap situation, we're probably going to have to get creative."

Holmgren added that the 20-year-old forward would be recalled to the big club on days the AHL team is not playing.

"I've talked to the league about this," Holmgren told local reporters. "When we carry him on our roster, we're pushing the limit of the cap, so there is punishment to the Flyers, as well."

Downie received a match penalty during Tuesday's game. His suspension matched the fourth-longest in league history, falling five games shy of the league record handed down against Islanders forward Chris Simon for his two-handed stick attack to the face of Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers in March.

McAmmond was taken off the ice on a stretcher in the second period of the preseason game and is out indefinitely.

McAmmond has a history of concussions and was knocked out of the playoffs last spring after a hit to the head by Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger. Pronger received a one-game ban for that hit, one of many leveled at the head last season that forced the NHL to crack down.

Downie said after the game he thought he delivered a clean hit.

"My game is hitting and finishing checks," Downie said. "I'm just trying to earn a spot on a roster. It's part of my game and I apologize for him getting hurt. I thought I got him clean. Unfortunately he hit the boards after."

McAmmond had lost possession of the puck and was skating behind the Philadelphia net when he was sent to the ice by Downie's flying check at 2:39 of the second period. Downie's feet left the ice before the violent collision.

Senators team doctor Don Chow immediately went to McAmmond's aid even as players from both teams squared off in the aftermath with Ottawa enforcer Brian McGrattan going after Downie.

McAmmond did not move his hands or his feet while he was strapped onto the stretcher and taken off the ice.

"The primary concern of our organization was, and continues to be, the health of Dean McAmmond," Senators GM Bryan Murray said in a statement. "We feel the number of games of the suspension is appropriate, and the NHL has sent the correct message to address the severity of hits to the head like this one."

Downie's temper was triggered only moments earlier when Ottawa's Chris Schubert drove him face first into the glass, giving Campbell a reason to believe the hit was intentional.

Downie called McAmmond and apologized, but Ottawa coach John Paddock called for Downie to be suspended "for a long time."

"I tried to stay as free as I could from any of the outside influences and just dealt with what I had to deal with," Campbell said.

Other suspensions of at least 20 games include: Boston's Marty McSorley in Feb. 2000, for knocking out Vancouver's Donald Brashear with a stick-swinging hit (23 games); Tampa Bay's Gordie Dwyer (23 games) for abusing officials and coming out of the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game in 2000; and Washington's Dale Hunter (21 games) for a blindside check of Pierre Turgeon of the New York Islanders after a goal in a 1993 playoff game.

Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi, Chicago's Tom Lysiak and Phoenix's Brad May all served 20-game suspensions.

Campbell said another consideration for punishment in vicious hits to the head is if a player is a repeat offender. Downie was suspended in junior hockey for fighting with a teammate and he later punched an opponent in the face after a faceoff.

Campbell said he was aware of Downie's past behavior but did not hold it against him because the hits weren't in the NHL.

"When it comes to our league, he has a clean slate," Campbell said. "We do not consider what he does in any other league."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Florida's Olivo suspended 5 games after brawl

NEW YORK -- Florida catcher Miguel Olivo was suspended for five games Sunday and fined for his role in a weekend brawl against the New York Mets.

Miguel Olivo


Olivo was at the mound during a pitching change in the fifth inning Saturday and started jawing with the Mets' Jose Reyes, who was at third. Olivo charged across the diamond and threw a punch at Reyes, a friend of his, and benches cleared. Olivo was ejected.

Bob Watson, baseball's vice president in charge of discipline, said Olivo's actions were "inappropriate and violent."

Olivo asked the players' association to appeal the penalty, meaning any suspension would be served at the start of next season. He was not in the starting lineup for Sunday's season finale.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Stewart will not be punished for on-air obscenity

Tony Stewart


KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Tony Stewart will not be penalized for uttering an obscenity Saturday morning during the ESPN2 telecast of the Nextel Cup practice session, NASCAR officials confirmed Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

"It's unfortunate, but there's a lot of other noise when you see the tape," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president of corporate communications. "If you run it over and over, you get it. But if our viewers and ESPN's viewers are sitting at home watching it, there's a chance they might not have heard that."

Stewart was talking to driver Robby Gordon on pit road before walking toward two ESPN camera operators. Stewart looked at one camera operator and said: "What? Get the [expletive] away from me."

Hunter said the decision not to penalize Stewart is in line with similar decisions when drivers said an obscenity outside a formal interview session.

"That's our position," Hunter said. "It wasn't an interview. But we certainly have had some conversations with Tony. The truth is we don't want anyone to hear language like that."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for He can be reached at


Clayton: Denver faces critical stretch

The schedule-makers outdid themselves this week.

Rivalries and grudge matches abound. Jamal Lewis and the Browns play host to the Baltimore team that let him go. Daunte Culpepper goes back to Miami. Matt Schaub gets to rub it in against Atlanta for trading him. Darrell Jackson of the 49ers can make the Seahawks pay for dealing him. Former Steelers assistants Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm can get back at the Steelers for passing each of them over for the head coaching job.

But the best games of the weekend feature AFC teams. The Patriots don't play the Bengals much, which is too bad. As a tune-up for a big conference showdown against the Colts on Nov. 4, the Patriots visit the Bengals on "Monday Night Football" (ESPN 8:30 p.m. ET).

Cincinnati's Carson Palmer is mastering the Peyton Manning style of offense. The Bengals, who average 31 points, don't huddle, and Palmer works his passing magic with ease. The goal for Palmer, who has a 64-percent completion rate, is to bump that number to 70 percent or above.

What could make life tough for the Bengals is that Rudi Johnson might not play because of a hamstring injury. The Bengals are running out of offensive weapons. The suspension of Chris Henry and a hamstring injury to Tab Perry take away options at wide receiver.

New England's Tom Brady hasn't made any bold predictions, but he's torching NFL record books. Thanks to the additions of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and others, Brady is completing a staggering 79.5 percent of his passes.

The Bengals' problems on defense are well documented -- they give up 31.7 points per game -- and Cincinnati has a banged-up linebacking corps, so expect a high-scoring game.

1. Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts : Remember Mike Shanahan's thoughts a couple of years ago? To be a champ, you need a Champ, so he brought in Champ Bailey to be his Deion Sanders-type shutdown cornerback. The Broncos made the playoffs that season but were eliminated by Peyton Manning. This year, the Broncos revamped their defense by trading for Dre Bly, giving them two excellent cover corners. They hired Jim Bates to re-do the defensive line and got bigger at tackle. But the Broncos still can't stop the run.

After a devastating home loss to the Jaguars, the Broncos embark on a three-game stretch in which they play the Colts, Chargers and Steelers. They start with the Colts, who are 3-0 and feeling good about themselves after road division wins over the Titans and Texans. Shanahan must get his running game cranking to keep Manning off the field. Travis Henry has 1,500-yard potential, but the Colts have done a good job stopping the run.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: For those who thought the Saints were going to run away with the NFC South, they must eat crow and shift attention to these teams. The winner will be 3-1 and have the feel of a division champ.

After a 4-12 record in 2006, the Bucs brought in Jeff Garcia to run the offense, and they have enough running talent to shorten the number of possessions and be more physical. A good draft has added youth and vitality to the Bucs' defense.

The Panthers won't have Jake Delhomme at quarterback because of an elbow injury, but the Panthers might have struck gold by signing David Carr as a backup. As long as the Panthers manage a solid running attack to make the job easier for him, he could be a hero.

3. Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: Many Bears' fans got their wish. Rex Grossman has been benched. But here is a scary thought: What if Brian Griese loses? Griese, considered the best backup quarterback in football, has an impossible job. He signed to help out a team loaded on defense, but injuries have him playing for a team that doesn't look like the Bears.

Injuries could keep Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher and Lance Briggs out of the lineup. To make matters worse, the Bears are playing a Mike Martz offense. Sure, the Lions can't play defense well. But the Lions are averaging 345 yards a game through the air, and the Bears could be facing them without their two starting cornerbacks. A loss could put the Bears two games behind the Lions in the NFC North and maybe three games behind the Packers.

4. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: Mike Holmgren didn't like losing two games to the 49ers last season. Sunday's game will be his chance to make a statement. The 49ers are a solid contender in the NFC West, but they have lost key playmakers to injury and aren't scoring enough.

The matchup of Frank Gore (right hand) and Shaun Alexander (left wrist) should be interesting because both backs are playing with broken bones that could affect their ability to carry the ball. Despite giving up a lot of yards to the Bengals, the Seahawks' defense is much improved over last season. But it must do a better job shutting down Gore, who gouged Seattle for 356 yards rushing last season.

The 49ers have lost Manny Lawson, taking away a pass-rush threat and a linebacker who can cover the tight end. They also lost tight end Vernon Davis for a couple of weeks with a knee injury. San Francisco wide receiver Darrell Jackson, Matt Hasselbeck's favorite receiver in Seattle, has something to prove in this game.

5. Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: The Saints were the Cinderella story last year. This season it might be Brett Favre, who has led Green Bay to a 3-0 record. The Packers' chances of being successful seemed remote in training camp. Green Bay has new seven offensive starters who are 13 years younger than Favre. But despite the absence of a running game, Favre has managed an effective offense through the air. That might not work in November and December, but he can worry about that later. What's interesting about this matchup is the Vikings are so good against the run, opponents simply don't run against them.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals: When Bill Cowher left, Steelers assistants Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm each was stunned he lost the job to former Vikings assistant Mike Tomlin. So far, Tomlin has been a great fit in Pittsburgh, so Whisenhunt and Grimm, now the Cardinals' head coach and assistant head coach respectively, have a lot to prove in this game. Each knows the strengths and weaknesses of the Steelers.

Whisenhunt didn't like some of the critical comments made about him by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after his departure. Roethlisberger is doing well with Bruce Ariens, who took over for Whisenhunt at offensive coordinator.

Cardinals fans will be wondering if Whisenhunt will go back to QB Kurt Warner in no-huddle situations to try to take away some of Dick LeBeau's blitz packages. Matt Leinart is still the starting quarterback, but he's struggling. He doesn't look as confident, and his play has been inconsistent.

7. Houston Texans at Atlanta Falcons: Bobby Petrino put all his quarterbacking eggs in one basket, Michael Vick. With Vick out for the foreseeable future, all that work was a waste. Sunday could be the ultimate embarrassment. He traded Matt Schaub, who has revitalized the Texans with his smart play and quick decision-making. Petrino wants a 65-percent passer. Schaub's completing 75.9 percent of his passes. Whoops.

As for the Falcons, they are running through quarterbacks. Joey Harrington is holding the job until Byron Leftwich is ready. If Leftwich doesn't work out, the Falcons will be looking to draft a quarterback in the first round, further delaying their chances of contending.

The Falcons are a mess. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall had a mental meltdown and isn't happy about his $100,000 fine for getting three dumb penalties and getting into the faces of coaches along the sidelines. You just wonder what might have been had the Falcons kept Schaub.

8. Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have been disappointments. They needed to beat the Packers in Week 3 and didn't. Now they turn their attention to the AFC West and the pressure is on. Sure, they've faced good defenses during the first three weeks, but the team hasn't been able to run the ball despite the presence of LaDainian Tomlinson.

Opponents are guessing right with run blitzes. The defense isn't putting fear into opposing quarterbacks. Even though the Chiefs are rebuilding, they still have a decent defense. KC ranks fifth in total defense, giving up only 268.7 yards per game. However, they are vulnerable to the run, giving up 113 yards each week.

San Diego head coach Norv Turner's mission is to get the running game going. After the Chiefs, the Chargers face the Broncos and Raiders, two AFC West teams getting gashed in the run game. If the Chargers put together a three-game winning streak, they will be 4-2 and sitting tall in the division.

9.Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns: This has the look of a blowout, but there are plenty of interesting elements. First, Jamal Lewis plays against the Ravens. Brian Billick wanted to change the style of the offense, getting away from the fullback-oriented running game and using more one-back sets. Willis McGahee is averaging 91 yards a game. Lewis has 308 yards rushing, a 5.8-yard average, and is the main hope for the Browns.

The other part of this game is its importance to Cleveland head coach Romeo Crennel. If the Browns lose, they are 1-2 in the AFC North with no more division home games left. They face the Patriots next week. A 1-4 start could heat up the potential of a coaching change during the Week 7 bye week.

10. Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins: Last season, the Dolphins thought Daunte Culpepper would save the franchise at quarterback even though he was coming off a knee reconstruction. Nick Saban worked him too much during the offseason and the knee needed another surgery. Culpepper wanted out of Miami, but the team held him until near the start of camp, which Culpepper didn't appreciate. Culpepper re-emerged in Oakland, and, thanks to Josh McCown's broken big toe, he will get his first Raiders' start.

The Dolphins are 0-3 with Trent Green as starter. Green is moving the ball decently, but he hasn't turned the Dolphins into a winner -- yet. The loser of this game will be doing a lot of reflecting over what happened to them during the offseason and during September.

John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for


Panthers QB Carr to start Sunday vs. Buccaneers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A strained elbow wouldn't allow Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme to practice for the fourth straight day Saturday, which means backup David Carr will get the start in Sunday's game against Bucs,'s John Clayton is reporting.

Carr, a five-year starter in Houston, was signed in the offseason as an upgrade over last year's backup, Chris Weinke. Carr, who replaced Delhomme late in the third quarter against the Falcons, completed three of four passes for 56 yards in two run-dominated scoring drives in Carolina's win.

"Different players, different coordinator and a different coaching staff, but I kind of felt at home, to tell you the truth," Carr said earlier this week. "It was fun."

Delhomme's elbow was not the only injury concern for Carolina heading into Sunday's game, which will determine first place in the NFC South.

Middle linebacker Dan Morgan will not play after suffering an ankle injury against the Falcons. His backup, Adam Seward, returned to practice Friday for the first time in a week following a calf injury and is listed as questionable.

James Anderson moved from outside linebacker into Morgan's spot when he went out in the third quarter against Atlanta, and could start there Sunday.

The news is better for right guard Jeremy Bridges, who practiced Friday for the first time this week after being sidelined with a toe injury. He's listed as probable.

Bridges returned last week after a two-game suspension for his arrest on a misdemeanor assault charge, and the offensive line consistently opened up holes for the running game. DeShaun Foster had 122 of the Panthers' 175 yards rushing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Bettini repeats as world champion

Italy's Paulo Bettini successfully defended his World Championships road race crown in a sprint in Stuttgart.

Olympic champion Bettini surged ahead of Russian Alexandr Kolobnev and Stefan Schumacher of Germany at the line to finish in 6 hours 44 mins 43 secs.

David Millar - one of three Britons in the race - finished 54th.

A German court on Friday ruled Bettini could participate in the race despite refusing to sign the International Cycling Union's anti-doping pledge.

Luxemburg's Frank Schleck and Australian Tour de France star Cadel Evans made up a five-man group which formed on the final lap.

Source: BBC Sport

Live - Ireland 0-0 Argentina

7 Sept - 20 Oct, 2007
Latest: Ireland 0-0 Argentina (Kick-off 1600 BST)


To get involved, text us on 81111 (UK users only) or contribute to 606

1601: Ireland are on the money early. A chip and chase from Ronan O'Gara causes chaos in the Argentine ranks and Ireland are on the front foot.

1600: This is it.
"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..."
germooney on 606

1558: More stoic singing from the Irish than their Latin rivals as they belt out 'Ireland's Call'. It time for the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck.

"The Parc des Princes is absolutely jumping for this one. Fantastic atmosphere."
BBC Sport's Bryn Palmer in Paris

1557: The Pumas have got themselves in a right tizz for this one. Some have tears in their eyes as they bellow out their anthem and skipper Agustin Pichot jumps out of the line on the last chord to gee them up further.

1555: A febrile atmosphere is being stoked further by some dramatic orchestral music before the anthems. It's like something from 'Gladiator' out there

1553: The Irish XV walked through a guard of honour from their fellow squad members as they left the changing room and are now given a roaring welcome as they emerge alongside the Pumas.

1551: If you're of a green persuasion and need reasons to believe have a read of Alastair Ekyn's blog detailing reasons why Ireland can do it.

1549: Will Ireland do it? Have your say on 606 or drop us a text via 81111.

1547: A packed house at the Parc des Princes and the vast majority will be supporting Ireland. 'Allez les Verts" could be the order of the day.

"The Argentina supporters may be outnumbered but they are in buoyant mood and clearly believe their team are going to finish what they started at the Stade de France on opening night and top the pool. Ireland fans by contrast are in muted form by their standards. The widespread feeling seems to be that any sort of victory would be a reasonable result after a dismal campaign, but there is little optimism they will get the four tries they need against a Pumas defence that has yet to concede a try in their three games so far."
BBC Sport's Bryn Palmer in Paris

1545: France are top of the Pool D pile after handsomely beating Georgia, but will they stay there. What are the permutations? To reach the last eight Ireland need to score four tries and beat Argentina by eight points or more. That would also mean France stay in pole position. Anything less and it will be Argentina and France going through.

"Tremendous scenes on the Metro on the way to the Parc des Princes for the Ireland v Argentina crunch clash. Loads of Pumas fans in blue and white wigs got in a carriage full of Irish fans and are they are all chanting and singing 'my bonny lies over the ocean!'"
BBC Sport's Bryn Palmer in Paris

Source: BBC Sport

Falcons to sit Hall at least first quarter vs. Texans

Clayton: Appeal a good sign

The fact that DeAngelo Hall is appealing his fine probably means that the penalty was appropriate, writes John Clayton.
Quick Hits Insider

Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall will sit at least the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Hall was fined $100,000 for his meltdown last week against the Carolina Panthers. He wasn't pleased with the decision and plans to appeal through the NFL Players Association.

The Falcons (0-3) fined Hall after their defensive star was called for three penalties totaling 67 yards on one possession, including two personal fouls, and then got into a heated sideline confrontation with coach Bobby Petrino and an assistant.

DeAngelo Hall


Atlanta Falcons


2007 Season Stats
Tot Solo Ast FF Sack Int
7 7 0 0 0 1

The penalties led to a Carolina touchdown that tied the game at 17 in the third quarter. The Panthers went on to a 27-20 victory.

Asked if he thought the punishment was fair, Hall said earlier this week, "I don't think so. They think so, but I don't think so. My agent is working on it with the union and hopefully we can get something worked out."

Petrino would only confirm a decision was reached on disciplining Hall but wouldn't discuss the details.

"It is something that we are keeping in-house," the first-year coach said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Gay easily wins 100; Powell injured during 200

YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Tyson Gay raced to one more win in Japan, while Asafa Powell had another bad experience.

Gay, who won three gold medals at the world championships in Osaka in August, returned to Japan on Sunday, winning the men's 100 meters in 10.23 seconds at the Super Track and Field Meet in Yokohama.

Running in a steady rain, the United States' Gay coasted to victory ahead of Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles, who had a time of 10.48. Japan's Naoki Tsukahara was third in 10.51.

Gay won gold in the 100, 200 and 400 relay in Osaka.

"Given the success I've had here I wanted to win this race," Gay said. "It went well. There was a bit of a negative wind. It was hard to warm up but it was nice to win here."

He finished second to compatriot Wallace Spearmon at the Golden Grand Prix in Shanghai on Friday.

"I'm a bit fatigued from a long season," Gay said. "My body condition is a lot better from yesterday. Knowing the fans were out there cheering really got my motivation going."

It was a different story for Jamaica's Powell, who injured his left hamstring during the men's 200 meters.

Powell, who holds the world record of 9.74 in the 100, pulled up coming off the turn.

"It's a strain of some sort," Powell's manager Paul Doyle said. "He felt a pain in his upper hamstring and then it moved to the middle of the hamstring, which would indicate there is some sore of muscle tear."

Powell finished third in the 100 in Osaka.

J.J. Johnson of the United States won the men's 200 in 20.64. Canadian Tyler Christopher was second in 20.82.

In the men's high jump, Sweden's Linus Thornblad won with a jump of 7 feet, 3 inches. World champion Donald Thomas finished fourth with a jump of 7-0½.

American Dexter Faulk won the men's 110 hurdles, clocking 13.57 seconds, and teammate Bershawn Jackson took the men's 400 hurdles in 49.80.

Sanya Richards of the United States won the women's 400 meters with a time of 50.27, ahead of Christine Amertil of the Bahamas who finished in 52.32.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Gebrselassie apologizes after setting world record

BERLIN -- Less than 10 minutes after breaking the world marathon record on Sunday, Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie was handed a cell phone -- it was Paul Tergat calling from Kenya to offer his congratulations.

"I'm sorry," Gebrselassie told his great rival and long-time friend after winning the Berlin marathon in two hours, four minutes and 26 seconds, shattering by 29 seconds Tergat's record set on the same course in 2003.

Tergat would have none of it, telling Gebrselassie he was delighted for him.

"I am sorry -- this record belonged to Paul Tergat," Gebrselassie told a news conference when asked about the phone call. "Paul is my friend."

Gebrselassie tried to tell Tergat he thought he had better weather conditions this year compared to 2003, when it was sunnier and warmer, although there was less wind. But Tergat responded that records were meant to be broken.

"I really wanted to do this record but I was a little bit worried about it, worried about attacking my friend's record," said Gebrselassie, 34, who fell 61 seconds short a year ago in Berlin in his first attempt to break Tergat's mark of 2:04.55.

"I think Paul understands that. I talked to him and said 'Hi, Paul, I'm sorry.' I said 'You can come here and try to get it back again next year'."

Gebrselassie, the best distance runner of his era, is one of only three men to win consecutive Olympic 10,000 meter titles, the second at the 2000 Sydney Games providing an indelible image when he just held off the frenzied challenge from Tergat.

Gebrselassie has now held records at distances ranging from 3,000 meters to the marathon. He set numerous world records and won four successive world titles over 10,000 meters before turning to road racing.

"Sure, there's no question about that," Gebrselassie said when asked if the elusive marathon world record was the most important. "It's something special. I was dreaming of it for many years. It's my record now. I'm so happy."

On Sunday he confidently attacked the flat, fast course under ideal marathon weather conditions and had split times that were consistently a half minute faster than Tergat for almost the entire race.

Gebrselassie admitted he had been a bit rattled by heavy rain and strong winds in Berlin earlier in the week.

"I lost some confidence when I first arrived -- you know, the weather," he said. "Yesterday, I thought 'what's going on here in Berlin?' But they kept telling me the weather forecast was 'no rain'. How do you believe that?"

The weather forecast turned out to be accurate. The rain stopped before the race, there was only a little wind and skies remained overcast until late in the race.


Germany win Women's World Cup final

Germany edged out Brazil in a gripping match to became the first team to retain the Women's World Cup.

Sandra Smisek showed great composure to pick out captain Birgit Prinz whose scuffed shot crept under keeper Andreia to set Germany on their way.

Marta, who had earlier crashed a 20-yard volley against the post, then saw her penalty saved by Nadine Angerer after Linda Bresonik felled Cristiane.

But the Germans sealed the win when Simone Laudehr headed home late on.

Full report to follow.

Source: BBC Sport

Rugby World Cup photos

7 Sept - 20 Oct, 2007

Source: BBC Sport

Hamilton closer to Formula One title with Japan win

OYAMA, Japan -- Lewis Hamilton won a wet-and-wild Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, giving him a 12-point lead in the drivers standings over McLaren teammate and defending champion Fernando Alonso, who crashed out of the race.

F1 standings after 15 races

By crashing out of the Japanese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso (pictured) lost ground in the overall standings to teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Driver Team Points
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 107
2. Fernando Alonso McLaren-Mercedes 95
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 90
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 80
5. Nick Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 56
6. Robert Kubica BMW-Sauber 35
7. Heikki Kovalainen Renault 30
8. Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 21
9. Nico Rosberg Williams 15
10. Alexander Wurz Williams 13

Heikki Kovalainen of Renault was second, and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished third in a rainy race that had spins, bumps and crashes throughout its 67 laps.

Hamilton could become the first rookie to win the world title if he finishes with at least an 11-point lead over Alonso next week in China.

Alonso still can win the title but will need a lot of luck in the final two races.

His luck deserted him at the Fuji Speedway when he spun and hit the wall hard on the 42nd lap. His car stopped in the middle of the track, surrounded by debris. Helped out of the car, the Spaniard stayed behind a fence for a few laps to contemplate what happened before leaving.

Alonso said there was too much water on the track to control his car.

"When I was braking for turn five, I just aquaplaned the car and spun," he said. "Unfortunately, the walls at that corner are very close to the track so I hit the barrier heavily, and that was it."

That led the way to Hamilton's fourth victory of the season, tying him with Alonso and Raikkonen for the most wins this year.

"I think for me one of the most, if not the most, difficult races I had to do," Hamilton said. "It is a big boost in terms of confidence and my drive to be world champion."

"There are two races to go. I need to knuckle down, and I won't be going partying. The key for me is to focus on the next race and take it as it comes."

Fernando Alonso

AP Photo

Fernando Alonso, front, spins on the 42nd lap of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. While the crash didn't eliminate him from title contention, he will have a difficult time winning his third straight Formula One title.

Alonso, however, hasn't given up hopes of a third straight title.

"I'm not throwing in the towel," he said. "But unless there is a retirement from Hamilton, we have to be realistic and see that it's very hard to recover six points per race."

There was a steady drizzle at the start of the race on a track that's been wet since Saturday. The race started behind the safety car to eliminate the danger of an accident on the first turn.

The cars were spraying rooster tails of water far behind them while turning laps nearly a minute slower than in Friday's dry conditions.

The first incident happened on the second lap when Ferrari's Felipe Massa slid out and then headed into the pits to change tires. His teammate Raikkonen soon followed after the team started on intermediate tires, but was told by the sports governing body FIA that they must be on extreme wets like all the other teams.

"Someone forgot to tell our team," Raikkonen said.

After 18 laps, the skies cleared somewhat. After 25 laps, Hamilton and Alonso were 2.7 seconds apart and more than 10 seconds ahead of rookie Sebastian Vettel in a Toro Rosso.

Hamilton was bumped by Robert Kubica, and both spun briefly.

"I didn't see him. He was on the inside," Hamilton said. "I was very fortunate to still finish. I felt a vibration and thought something wrong with the car. I had it the rest of the race."

A little later, Alonso and Vettel had an identical incident.

"I think the car was damaged quite a bit by that, but I was able to continue," Alonso said.

All the pit stops were cleared with 25 laps to go as Hamilton regained the lead. And just as he took control, Alonso's race was over as he spun and hit the wall hard.

Over the final lap, Kovalainen and Raikkonen battled for position, with the Finnish Ferrari driver overtaking his compatriot twice before Kovalainen regained the second spot and finished on the podium for the first time.

"Everybody has asked me about the last few laps with Kimi but my mirrors had steamed up completely and I couldn't see him," Kovalainen said. "He got past me into turn five on the final lap, but I wanted [second] so much that I went back round the outside on the way down to turn 10."

Behind them, David Coulthard of Red Bull was fourth, with Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella fifth. Massa finished sixth, with Kubica seventh.

Raikkonen now has 90 points for the season and still has a mathematical chance to take the title.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


Live - France v Georgia

7 Sept - 20 Oct, 2007
Latest: France v Georgia (Kick-off 1400 BST)


To get involved, text us on 81111 (UK users only) or contribute to 606

1345: It's D-day at the Rugby World Cup. D for Pool D, the fabled 'Pool of Death'. Three teams are playing for two quarter-final places and first up are hosts France, who should have the beating of Georgia to secure one of them, before Argentina and Ireland meet.

Source: BBC Sport

Despite 11 double faults, Venus wins Korean Open

Tennis scores

Need the scores from any match played in this or any other tournament? Results

SEOUL, South Korea -- Top-seeded Venus Williams beat Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in the championship of the Korean Open on Sunday.

Williams hadn't lost a set in the tournament heading into the final but she had to work to improve to 3-0 in her career against Kirilenko.

Williams, who won a title for the third time this year, had five double-faults and was broken three times in the second set. She finished with 11 double-faults for the match. But Williams broke Kirilenko twice in the third to secure the win.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press


All Black Lauaki cited for tackle

Back-up New Zealand number eight Sione Lauaki has been cited for an alleged dangerous tackle in the 85-8 hammering of Romania on Saturday.

The incident occurred when he tackled Romania wing Gabriel Brezoianu.

The 26-year-old Waikato Chiefs forward will appear before a disciplinary hearing in Paris on Monday.

New Zealand won all four of their pool matches to top their group and clinch a quarter-final against the runners-up in Pool D in Cardiff on 6 October.

Source: BBC Sport

Edelman dismisses threat

Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman is "relaxed" about Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov's interest in the club.

Usmanov's investment company Red and White Holdings Limited (RAWHL) owns nearly a quarter of the club's shares.

Edelman told BBC Radio 5live: "They've said previously they are not going to make a bid for the company and they want to be long-term shareholders.

"It's business as usual. As far as the board is concerned we don't believe we are in any danger of being taken over."

Interview: Arsenal chief executive Keith Edelman

RAWHL, which is jointly owned by Usmanov and London-based Farhad Moshiri, upped its stake in Arsenal to 23% on Friday and is now the second-largest shareholder behind director Danny Fiszman, who owns 24.11%.

Edelman and Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood enjoyed lengthy discussions with Moshiri earlier in the week in which RAWHL set out their stall.

"We agreed to have an open dialogue between the parties over the next few months," added Edelman.

"And we expect to meet and talk to them consistently and see how that relationship develops.

"What he said to us was that he thought we were a very good long-term investment and that he did not want to take the club over, and thought he was going to make a lot of money from this. That's what he said to us."

Following Arsenal's stunning financial results, Edelman believes Usmanov might be questioning the wisdom of changing the current regime.

"Perhaps he's taking a look down the road at another club in London and seeing that the way we're running our club is good for his investment to produce good returns on the money he's put in the club," he said.

"Possibly that's the reason he doesn't want to stop us running the club and operating it.

"If you look at Chelsea and look at Arsenal, we are running our club in terms of our revenues and our profits, we're running it from generated cash, without people having to put extra money in every year, and we're running it very profitably.

"If you're investing in a club you want to make a return on your investment.

"A lot of clubs look attractive because they're big world brands, but if you're investing and you want to see a return on your money then you want it to be profitable.

"Arsenal is profitable, Chelsea is not profitable at this juncture."

Edelman added: "It was a very friendly and cordial meeting and clearly we have to see if they do what they say their intentions are.

"So I think it is going to be important over the next few months to see whether they commit and keep doing what they said they were going to do.

"Arsenal fans and shareholders should understand that the board is resolute. We are going to be resolute for a very much longer period of time and I don't believe we are going to be taken over by any party.

"The board have got a lock in so they can't sell any shares until April next year and I think everyone has stated that they intend to continue that after that time."

Source: BBC Sport

Live: Women's World Cup final

Germany v Brazil, 1300 BST


Send us your views, comments and opinions on the final - text us on 81111 or use 606

TEAM NEWS: The teams are in. Here are the line-ups:

Germany: Angerer, Stegemann, Krahn, Hingst, Bresonik, Behringer, Lingor, Laudehr, Garefrekes, Smisek, Prinz.
Subs: Holl, Rottenberg, Bartusiak, Peter, Mittag, Minnert, Fuss, Mueller, Bajramaj, Wimbersky.

Brazil: Andreia, Elaine, Aline, Tania, Renata Costa, Daniela, Maycon, Ester, Marta, Christiane, Formiga.
Subs: Barbara, Thais, Rosana, Monica, Grazielle, Katia, Simone, Daiane, Pretinha, Michele.

Referee: Tammy Ogston (Australia)

1230: Good afternoon - if you're just tucking into your Sunday roast dinner, then I'm very jealous, as I'm here to bring you today's final between Germany and Brazil. Don't forget, you can watch the match live on BBC Two or on the BBC Sport website (UK users only).

But I'm going to need your help - text in your thoughts on 81111 or join the debate on 606.

Source: BBC Sport

USA Women take third place

USA cruised past Norway to secure third place at the Women's World Cup in a one-sided play-off in Shanghai.

Abby Wambach put the USA ahead before the break with a clever backheel flick from Lori Chalupny's goalbound shot and Wambach made it 2-0 from a corner.

It was 3-0 when a lucky double ricochet saw the ball eventually go in off Chalupny and Heather O'Reilly bundled in the fourth from close range.

Ragnhild Gulbrandsen pulled one back for Norway with a neat header.

Source: BBC Sport