LISTEN: Full script of Episode 71 of Spodcast where we discuss the El Clasico, Elina Svitolina’s WTA Finals title and more
An El Clasico sans Ronaldo and Messi but still a lot of goals, Elina Svitolina wins the WTA Finals title — we discuss these stories and more on our daily sports podcast. Here's the full script.
Welcome to Spodcast. It’s a Monday, and we’re looking at the big sports headlines over the weekend.
In LaLiga action, it was an El Clasico that did not feature two of the biggest names in football, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, for the first time in 11 years, but it was an amazing night for Barcelona fans. Barca thrashed Real Madrid 5-1 on Sunday as Luis Suarez scored a hat trick that could spell the end of Julen Lopetegui's tenure as coach.
Barcelona dominated the match from the word ‘go’ as Real Madrid’s patchy form was put under the spotlight — poor finishing, dreadful defending and key players performing well below par.
Philippe Coutinho opened Barca’s account, scoring the first goal in the 11th minute. Then, it was Suarez’s night as Barcelona dominated possession. He scored the first of his three goals in the 30th minute via a penalty. Suarez ran in a bit too quick at the near post and Raphael Varane tripped him over. Suarez converted the penalty for his seventh goal this season.
Madrid’s poor form was compounded by bad luck as Luka Modric, in an attempt to level after being behind 2-1, only ended up hitting the goalpost. They looked dazed through most of the match, but recovered a bit during the second half. Lucas Vazquez sent a great pass that was shunted by Isco to Marcelo Vieira who deposited the ball in Barcelona’s goal. It was Marcelo’s third strike in three games.
However, Barcelona recovered to dominate the rest of the game. Suarez scored twice more, in the 75th minute and the 83rd minute, to score a famous hat trick.
To add insult to injury, Barcelona scored once more against a deflated Real Madrid, just four minutes later, as Arturo Vidal’s header found its target.
In Premier League news, Chelsea defeated Burnley, Crystal Palace ended Arsenal’s 11-game winning streak, and Manchester United scraped past Everton ever so unconvincingly.
Chelsea looked in great touch as they thrashed Burnley 4-0 on Sunday. They barely missed Eden Hazard as Alvaro Morata, Ross Barkley, Willian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored a goal each to put it past a hapless Burnley at home. Hazard sat out the game following a back injury he sustained during the draw against Manchester United. The game started with a minute’s silence to mark the helicopter crash that killed Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on Saturday.
Chelsea scored their first goal in the 22nd minute, thanks to Ross Barkley’s lovely pass to Alvaro Morata. The next half hour saw Burnley struggle but they managed to keep Chelsea from scoring. However, in the 57th minute, Ross Barkley finally broke through for goal number two. Just five minutes later, Willian made it 3-0. Two minutes into stoppage time, Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored Chelsea’s fourth goal. Chelsea are now in second place in the points table, two points behind Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Arsenal’s fantastic 11-match winning streak was brought to an end by Crystal Palace who drew the match 2-2.
The first half was goalless as the two teams ran each other close. The first goal came off Luka Milivojevic's penalty kick, and Crystal Palace took the lead. That lasted no more than five minutes as Granit Xhaka equalised for Arsenal with a terrific free kick. Five minutes later, it was the turn of the in-form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he struck his ninth goal of the season.
There was a bit of controversy as Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette flicked the ball to Aubameyang with his hand, but officials failed to spot the offence.
However, Crystal Palace put that behind them when Wilfried Zaha won a second penalty in the 83rd minute. With just seven minutes left in the match, Milivojevic kicked the ball into the net to help his team draw level.
There was some drama off the pitch as well when Arsenal captain Mesut Ozil was substituted in the 68th minute. Ozil threw his gloves onto the floor in anger after walking past Unai Emery.
In the other big match on Sunday, Manchester United had a less than impressive day but managed to prevail 2-1 against Everton. Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial scored for Manchester United while Gylfi Sigurdsson scored in the 77th minute to cause some anxiety in the Manchester United camp.
Pogba’s dramatic penalty kick almost went in vain as Everton keeper Jordan Pickford made a superb save. However, Pogba was lucky to receive a safe rebound, which he slotted home.
Tennis news now. Elina Svitolina claimed the biggest title of her career after a gritty comeback against Sloane Stephens at the WTA Finals in Singapore on Sunday.
Svitolina came back from one set down to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours and 23 minutes. The Ukrainian is the first player since 2013 to finish the WTA Finals tournament undefeated.
Svitolina looked sluggish after two long matches against Caroline Wozniacki and Kiki Bertens. She saved three break points in the sixth game but Stephens’ serve was too good for her. Stephens won the first set 6-3. Svitolina upped her game in the next two games, with fantastic returns that neutralized Stephens’ serve.
She said after the match, “It's a very special moment for me, I played great tennis this week. This is going to bring a lot of confidence, as I have finished the season on a high note.”
Sloane Stephens said, “Not the way I wanted to finish but I worked really hard to get here and I can be really proud of my results.”
In golf news, Khalin Joshi won the Panasonic Open India for his maiden Asian Tour title.
Joshi equalled 2017 champion Shiv Kapur’s winning score of 17-under to clinch the championship. Siddikur Rahman finished second, his third runner-up finish at Panasonic Open and fifth Top-10 at the event in his last five starts.
Starting with a share of the lead, Joshi fell back with two bogeys on the first and third. He then plugged the leak with six birdies and no more bogeys. He stayed firm and steady over the last 15 holes as others fell by the wayside.
Joshi became the fifth Indian to win an Asian Tour title this year, joining Shubhankar Sharma, Rahil Gangjee, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Viraj Madappa.
Joshi said after his win, “...It’s a huge monkey off my back. I think I played really well…Kept my nerves and played really solid coming in. The last four holes were key for me...all night I was thinking about the 16th hole tee shot because that tee shot has haunted me for a while now.”
Arch-rivals India and Pakistan were on Sunday declared joint winners of the fifth Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament after the much-anticipated summit clash was called off due to heavy downpour in Muscat. Heavy rain since evening delayed the start of the final and even though the skies relented later, the damage had already been done. The turf was completely waterlogged because of the heavy showers and after discussion with both the coaches of India and Pakistan, the tournament director decided to call off the match and declare both the teams as joint winners. This was both India and Pakistan's last international outing before the season-ending men's World Cup.
Xavi’s rescue mission encounters its first major test on Tuesday as Barcelona face Benfica in a game that could decide the scrap in Group E to qualify for the Champions League last 16.
Vinicius Junior scored his 10th goal of the season as Real Madrid thrashed Granada 4-1 on Sunday.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois not surprised he didn't make FIFA Best's shortlist after criticising football body
Thibaut Courtois has also backed his Belgium teammate Eden Hazard who has not started a game since that shock defeat to Sheriff at Santiago Bernabeu.