St Valentine’s Day massacre for England in Melbourne

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CRICKET – Despite Steven Finn’s 5-71, including a hat-trick and 98 not out from James Taylor, abject England (231) were battered by Australia (342-9) by 111 runs in their opening World Cup game before 90,000 fans at the MCG.

Aaron Finch (dropped on nought) hit 135 for the Aussies but England captain Eoin Morgan failed again, out for another duck, his fourth in five innings.

Ex-player Geoff Boycott said: “England were pathetic and Morgan is not as good as he thinks.” I totally agree.

As England failed, so Ireland (307-6) celebrated with a four wicket victory over two-time champions the West Indies (304-7) and there were also opening wins for New Zealand v Sri Lanka, South Africa v Zimbabwe, India v Pakistan.

England’s next two games are against New Zealand tomorrow and Scotland on Sunday.

 

FOOTBALL – Results of the recent 5th round FA Cup-ties were Arsenal 2 Middlesbrough 0, Aston Villa 2 Leicester 1, Blackburn 4 (including a Josh King hat-trick) Stoke 1, giant-killers Bradford City 2 Sunderland 0, Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 2, Derby 1 Reading 2, Preston 1 Manchester United 3 and WBA 4 West Ham 0.

The quarter-final draw is: Aston Villa v West Brom, Bradford v Reading, Liverpool v Blackburn and Man U v Arsenal on Saturday, March 7.

Elsewhere last weekend, Ipswich (2-1 at Fulham), Norwich (2-0 v Wolves) and Watford (4-3 at   Bolton) all won to close up on Bournemouth and Middlesbrough at the top of the Championship.

In FL1, Sheffield United beat leaders Bristol City and Scunthorpe defeated second-placed Swindon.

Shrewsbury and Burton also won to stay first and second in FL2, Celtic lead the SPL by six points and Hearts and Hibs are one and two in SL1.

Here in Spain Lionel Messi (making his 300th La Liga appearance) scored another hat-trick in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Levante as leaders Real Madrid beat Coruna 2-0.

This weekend’s top games are Chelsea-Burnley, Manchester City-Newcastle and Swansea-Manchester United in the PL; Brentford-Bourne-mouth, Ipswich-Reading and Middlesbrough-Leeds in the Championship; Exeter meet Plymouth in FL2, Celtic play Hamilton in the SPL and it’s Atletico Madrid-Almeria, Barcelona-Malaga and Elche-Real Madrid in La Liga.

There’s already been Champions League action this week with Shaktar Donetsk-Bayern Munich (8-0 winners over Hamburg last Saturday), Schalke-Real Madrid and PSG-Chelsea. This evening (Thursday) in the Europa League, it’s Britain versus Italy with Celtic-Inter Milan and Spurs-Fiorentina, plus Liverpool-Besiktas and Young Boys-Everton.

 

RUGBY – Last week’s Six Nations matches saw England beat Italy 47-17, Ireland eclipse France     18-11 and Scotland 23 Wales 26. 

The next fixtures are on February 28/March 1.

In the Premiership, leaders Northampton (11 wins from 14 games) and Bath (second) are pulling away from the pack while London Welsh are rock  bottom with one point!

The unbeaten trio of St Helens, Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves stand 1-2-3 in the Super League; Salford Red Devils are propping up the table.

 

SOCCER IN BRIEF…

• Sky Sport/BT Sport will pay £5.1 billion (€6.9bn) to screen 168 Premiership games between August 2016 and May 2019.

The team finishing bottom in 2015-16 will receive £99m (€132m), the champions £156m (€210m).

• Tim Sherwood is Aston Villa’s new manager, while Chris Ramsey will boss QPR until May.

• West Ham’s Andy Carroll is out for the season with a knee injury.

• England manager Roy Hodsgon will name Spurs’ Harry Kane in his squad for the European qualifier against Lithuania on March 27 and the friendly with Italy soon afterwards.

• 14,369 fans at Stadium MK saw England’s women lose 1-0 to the USA in a pre-World Cup warm-up game.

 

SPORTS SHORTS…

• Afghanistan Light Dragoons soldier Guy Disney has become the first jockey to ride over fences with a prosthetic leg, coming home third on Ballyallia Man in the RA Gold Cup at Sandown last Friday.

• Andy Murray lost in straight sets to Frenchman Gilles Simon in the quarter-finals of the APT tournament in Rotterdam, which was won by Stan Wawrinka. And Laura Robson will return to competitive tennis this summer.

• Usain Bolt says he wants to retire on a high – by winning his last race in London in 2017.

• Heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson has set a new UK high jump record by clearing 1.97m at the British Indoor Championships in Sheffield.

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