The days of Barcelona fans jeering Ousmane Dembélé are long gone.
There were only cheers from the crowd at the Camp Nou after the France forward led the hosts to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
Dembélé scored the winning goal early in the second half as Barcelona defeated 10-man Real Sociedad 1-0 to return to the last four after a one-year absence.
The result ended a nine-game winning streak for Sociedad, which played a man down from the 40th minute after Brais Méndez was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets.
It was Sociedad’s 27th straight loss to Barcelona as a visitor. It hasn’t won at the Catalan club in 31 matches, dating to 1991.
The Basque Country side arrived as one of the hottest teams in Spain with 21 wins in 28 matches in all competitions this season, with 13 of those wins coming in away games. It had lost only four times overall and is third in the Spanish league, six points behind leader Barcelona.
Barcelona was in control for most of the match, though, and opened the scoring in the 52nd through Dembélé’s angled shot from inside the area after a pass into space by defender Jules Koundé.
“What a great game by Ousmane,” Barcelona defender Ronald Araújo said. “We know of his quality. He has been helping us a lot, and now with goals as well. He has been making the difference, making all the right decisions, which before maybe it was something that he struggled with.”
Barcelona fans had been upset with Dembélé after he refused to accept the club’s decision to loan him to another club last summer. He has been playing well and been crucial for the team recently, though, and again created several opportunities Wednesday before scoring his third goal in six matches.
Some fans were on their feet to give him an ovation when Dembélé was replaced by Ansu Fati in the 84th.
“He has matured a lot,” Barcelona coach Xavi said about the 25-year-old Dembélé. “We only gave him confidence, we believe in him.”
Sociedad had a couple of good chances near the end but couldn’t capitalize on them, with Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen coming up with big saves.
“We competed well while 11 against 11 and after going down a man as well,” Sociedad defender Aritz Elustondo said. “We are proud of how we played even though we were eliminated.”
Barcelona was eliminated in the round of 16 last season and won the Copa in 2021 for its last title before the departure of Lionel Messi. The Catalan club has won four matches in a row, including the Spanish Super Cup final against Real Madrid in Saudi Arabia.
Xavi had Robert Lewandowski back after the Poland striker couldn’t play against Getafe in the Spanish league because of a suspension.
Sociedad was without veteran playmaker David Silva because of a muscle injury.
Barcelona eliminated third-division club Ceuta in the round of 16, while Sociedad got past Mallorca.
Osasuna defeated visiting Sevilla 2-1 in extra time to reach the Copa semifinals for the first time since 2002-03.
Abde Ezzalzouli scored the winner on a 99th-minute breakaway after Sevilla had forced extra time with a stoppage-time goal by Youssef En-Nesyri.
The hosts opened the scoring through Chimy Ávila in the 71st.
Sevilla, one point from the relegation zone in the Spanish league, last made it to the semifinals in 2020-21.
On Thursday, Real Madrid hosts city rival Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao visits Valencia.
A ₹724 crore boost in union sports budget
In the year of the Asian Games and qualifications for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the union sports budget saw a significant jump in allocation on Wednesday. The sports ministry has been allocated ₹3397.32 crore for 2023-24 – an increase of 723.97 crore from the previous fiscal. The budget for the previous financial year was ₹3062.60 crore (revised: ₹2673.35cr).
The Asian Games, postponed last year due to Covid, are due to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23-October 8. India’s elite athletes have also started preparing for various Olympic qualification events.
Also Read | Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open
The allocation for National Sports Federations (NSFs) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) have gone up. Assistance to NSFs has been increased to ₹325 crore from ₹280 crore in 2022-23.
SAI has been allocated ₹785.5 crore, an increase from last year’s revised budget of ₹749.43 crore. It was originally allocated ₹653 crore in the last financial year. SAI oversees the preparation of national teams, manages national camps, provides infrastructure and other facilities to athletes besides appointing coaches, including foreign experts.
A big chunk of the sports budget will go for government’s flagship programme, Khelo India. It gets ₹1,000 crore, an increase of ₹400 crore from the revised allocation of ₹600 crore set aside for it in the previous budget. Under the scheme, Khelo India Youth Games and Khelo India University Games are organised. It has become the platform for talent identification and nurturing through its various schemes. The budget for Khelo India has steadily risen since its inception in 2018.
A major allocation of ₹107.84 crore has been made for the National Sports University in Imphal. Set up in 2018, NSU is a first-of-its-kind institution which imparts studies in sports science and medicine, coaching, sports management and technology.
The National Centre of Sports Science and Research, under which financial assistance is given to medical colleges and Universities to develop centres of sports science and research, has been allocated ₹13 crore.
There has been a ₹10 crore dip in incentives to athletes, from ₹55 crore last year. To fight the doping menace, the National Anti Doping Agency has been allocated ₹21.73 crore. The National Dope Testing Laboratory in Delhi, whose accreditation was restored by the World Anti-Doping Agency in December, 2021, gets ₹19.50 crore. A National Anti-Doping Bill was passed last year to create a statutory body for regulating anti-doping activities in sports.
Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open
Indian shuttlers B Sai Praneeth and Kiran George advanced to the second round of the Thailand Open Super 300 badminton tournament with contrasting wins over their respective opponents on Wednesday.
Praneeth beat Mads Christophersen of Denmark 21-13 21-14 in a battle lasting 31 minutes. He faces Hyeok Jin Jeon of South Korea in second round.
George, on the other hand, staved off a tough challenge from Lee Chia Hao of Chinese Taipei before emerging 21-17 19-21 23-21 victorious. He is up against third seed Cheuk Yiu Lee of Hong Kong in the second round.
However, Sameer Verma, Priyanshu Rajawat and Mithun Manjunath lost their first round matches. While Verma suffered 14-21 16-21 defeat against sixth seeded Chinese Shi Feng Li, Rajawat lost to Kwang Hee Heo of South Korea 21-14 19-21 25-27 and Manjunath was beaten 18-21 12-21 by fifth seeded Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.
In women’s singles, Ashmita Chaliha beat compatriot Anupama Upadhyaya 21-16 21-19 to reach the second round where she will face sixth seed Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark.
The pair of Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker lost to sixth seeded Sheng Shu and Shu Xian Zhang of China 8-21 10-21 in the women’s doubles.
In mixed doubles, Rohan Kapoor and Sikki Reddy beat Canadian pair of Ty Alexander Lindeman and Josephine Wu 21-11 21-16 to enter the second round. But the pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa lost to fourth seeded Indonesian pair of Rehan Naufal Kusharjanto and Lisa Ayu Kusumawati 11-21 17-21.
Djokovic played Australian Open with 3cm tear in hamstring, says Tiley | Tennis News
Novak Djokovic played with a three-centimetre (1.2 inches) tear in his hamstring during his run to a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.
The Serbian, who suffered the hamstring injury en route to winning the warm-up title in Adelaide, won the season-opening major after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final for a men’s record 22nd Grand Slam title, matching Rafa Nadal’s haul.
“This guy I did see, he had a three-centimetre tear in his hammy,” Tiley told SEN Sportsday. “Absolutely (I saw the scans), the doctors are going to tell you the truth.
“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was true or not, it’s hard to believe that they can do what they do with those kinds of injuries.
“He’s remarkable, to deal with it extremely professionally.”
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said after the final that the world number one battled the injury, which would have forced most players to quit.
“He’s so focused on everything he does, with every single minute of the day,” Tiley added. “That’s what he eats, what he drinks, when he does it, how he does it.
“There’s no breakdown or mental breakdown in anything that he does. He’s been through a lot and to win 10 Australian Opens, I don’t think that’s ever going to be repeated… He’ll hold a significant place in the history of the Australian Open.”
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