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England’s perfect World Cup qualifying run ended by late Poland equalizer

Poland scored a stoppage-time equalizer to bring an end to England’s perfect start to World Cup qualification and secure an important 1-1 draw in Warsaw.

Gareth Southgate’s side, who lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties in July, had won their opening five matches in Group I.

Harry Kane’s long-range effort in the 72nd minute had them on course to extend that to six games before Damian Szymanski struck in the 92nd minute to earn Poland an unlikely draw.

“An amazing feeling. I’m glad we managed to score that goal in the last minutes. I’m happy,” Symanszki said. “I’ve worked hard for this, struggled with injuries. To play against England, to score a goal, it’s a dream come true.”

This was England’s toughest test in Group I so far with Poland set up to frustrate through defensive play and gamesmanship but the visitors looked set to come through and take a big step towards next year’s World Cup finals.

England’s efforts were frustrated in the opening 45 minutes as they failed to trouble Wojciech Szczesny in goal for Poland.

The hosts’ main threat, Robert Lewandowski, meanwhile, was restricted to one half-chance, which was tidily dealt with by Jordan Pickford.

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A fast-paced but uneventful first-half burst into life just as the referee whistled for half-time with England and Poland players coming together. 

Harry Maguire appeared incensed about something, while Poland defender Kamil Glik was called back by the referee as he tried to leave the pitch. Eventually things settled down and both players were cautioned.

There was an incident just before half-time which has been reported to the FA guys,” Kane said postmatch. “They’re taking care of it and investigating it and we’ll go from there. Allegedly it was something that was done, not said. We haven’t chance to look at the footage and talk to the lad.”

England stepped things up after the break with Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling troubling the Poland rearguard but, again, without really causing Szczesny too much cause for concern.

That was until the 72nd minute when Kane’s powerful, swerving shot flew past the former Arsenal goalkeeper from 32 yards out to put England in front.

It was the 15th consecutive qualifier, for Euros and World Cup, in which Kane has scored and it looked to have brought a sixth straight victory in this campaign.

England have 16 points from six games with Albania second on 12 points, Poland on 11 and Hungary on 10 points. The top team in the group qualifies for next year’s World Cup in Qatar with the second place team heading into the playoffs.

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Tatis homers, 4 for 4 in return, Padres beat Rockies 3-0

Fernando Tatis Jr.’s return from the COVID-19 injury list was nothing short of extraordinary.

Cleared to play by Major League Baseball late Wednesday morning, the star shortstop got to the ballpark about an hour before first pitch, took a few swings in the batting cage and then played for the first time in 10 days.

“Go to that jungle, boy, survive,” he said. Did he ever.

Tatis hit a remarkable home run, went 4 for 4, finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and even did the splits after stealing second base, leading the Padres over the Colorado Rockies 3-0 for a three-game sweep.

Tatis missed eight matches. Forced to isolate at home, he said he was able to take just a few dry swings and went jogging one day. Otherwise, he said he did his best to stay mentally sharp.

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“It’s crazy. It’s crazy,” the 22-year-old Tatis said. “I was even feeling like kind of weird at shortstop, like, ‘Damn, is something looking different or is it just me?’ It’s a thing when you’re far from the game, but here we are, healthy, thank God.”

Tatis, who had been out since May 11, helped the Padres win their sixth consecutive game and for the ninth time in 10 games.

Jake Cronenworth had an inside-the-park home run and Joe Musgrove struck out 11 in seven innings. Craig Stammen struck out the side in the eighth, and Mark Melancon finished the two-hitter with a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 15th save in as many chances.

Manager Jayce Tingler said what Tatis did Wednesday “is incredibly unique. I don’t know how to explain it. There’s not many that can kind of roll out and be able to do that.”

Tatis came up in the eighth needing a triple for the cycle and got his third extra-base hit of the game, an RBI double. He did a little dance after reaching the bag.

“It would have been great if we would have checked the cycle out of my things to do list but we were a little short and it’s definitely something I’m looking to the future for,” Tatis said.

The Padres were 7-1 without Tatis, who was placed on the injured list before a match at Colorado on May 11. Right fielder Wil Myers and first baseman Eric Hosmer were pulled from that game, Myers after he returned a positive test and Hosmer due to contact tracing.

Tatis and Hosmer were activated before Wednesday’s match and Myers is expected back this weekend. Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo, also placed in the contact tracing protocol on May 11, returned Monday night.

Tatis drove the first pitch he saw from Chi Chi González to right-center field with two outs in the fourth for his 10th homer. Tatis, batting cleanup for the first time in his three-year big league career, singled leading off the second and then stole second, doing the splits after sliding feet-first.

The Padres have encouraged Tatis to cut back on head-first slides after he experienced left shoulder discomfort during spring training and then suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder on a hard swing on April 5 that landed him on the 10-day injured list.

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Novak Djokovic ends Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev’s golden run

Novak Djokovic had a perfect record in Australian Open semifinals, and he was playing almost flawless tennis to protect it.

It didn’t matter that across the net was Aslan Karatsev, a 114th-ranked, 27-year-old Russian who had come through qualifying to make his debut in a Grand Slam tournament after nine failed attempts.

Djokovic made only one unforced error in more than 50 minutes.

It was tight for the first seven games — before Djokovic reeled off eight consecutive points to win the first set — and again when Karatsev went on an all-or-nothing roll late in the second set.

Sensing a shift in support for the underdog — there was a vocal crowd at Rod Laver Arena after a five-day span when fans were barred during a local COVID-19 outbreak — Djokovic moved up a gear and finished off his opponent 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

He’s now 9-0 in semifinals at the season-opening major, and one victory from a ninth Australian title.

“The more I win, the better I feel coming back,” the top-ranked Djokovic said. “The love affair continues.”

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Djokovic, 33, will have a day off Friday when No. 4 Daniil Medvedev and No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is coming off a five-set victory over Rafael Nadal, meet in the other semifinal. Djokovic said he’d have a rest and get the popcorn ready to watch and see who he gets to face in Sunday’s final.

Given his past success in Melbourne, Djokovic should feel confident going into another championship match.

He already owns a record eight Australian titles, and he’s aiming for an 18th major title, which would reduce the gap to Roger Federer and Nadal, who share the men’s record at 20.

Djokovic also is aiming to be only the second man to attain nine or more titles at one of the four Grand Slams. Nadal has 13 at Roland Garros. Djokovic, in Australia, and Federer, with eight at Wimbledon, currently share second place.

“Recovery is the priority right now,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had enough match play, enough practice.

“Right now it’s just gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match of the Australian Open.”

Djokovic has been bothered by an abdominal muscle problem since the third round. He initially stated it was a tear, but has since refused to talk about the details until after the tournament.

After his victory over Karatsev, he said it’s “the best as I’ve felt the entire tournament.” “I felt great. I could swing through the ball. No pain. Best match so far,” Djokovic said. “It came at the right time. I’m thrilled to feel this way.”

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