On an action-packed weekend in the Premier League, with some incredible results, Liverpool produced the headline-grabbing performance against bitter rivals Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday. In a scoreline that will go down in history books, United saw seven goals go past them, and six just in the second half as Mohamed Salah enjoyed a momentous night.
Elsewhere, the Formula One season got underway and Red Bull once again look like the team to beat as Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez led a 1-2 finish in Bahrain.
In tennis, Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from Indian Wells, with questions still surrounding his eligibility to enter the United States because he is unvaccinated against Covid-19. The Serb, however, extended his record of weeks as world number 1.
In cricket, Aiden Markram was named as South Africa’s men’s team captain but there was no place in the side for former skipper Faf du Plessis as the Proteas take on the West Indies in three T20I and three ODI matches.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 6 March, 2023:
Markram named Proteas T20 captain
South Africa’s new white-ball coach Rob Walter unveiled his first squads on Monday with Aiden Markram named as the new T20 captain but there was no place for former skipper, Faf du Plessis.
Although Walter had talks with Du Plessis, no agreement was reached for the one-day and Twenty20 international series against the West Indies this month.
Cricket South Africa director Enoch Nkwe said this did not mean the door was closed on Du Plessis, 38, who has not played for South Africa since February 2021, or other non-contracted cricketers.
“We’ve always been open to talks with our freelance players, we’re happy to engage and find the best way forward,” said Nkwe.
As widely anticipated, Markram, who marked his return to the Test team last week with a fine 115 in the victory over West Indies, was named as captain of the T20 side.
But there was no place in the T20 squad for Test captain Temba Bavuma, although he will continue to lead the ODI side.
Walter said the ODI squad was the first step towards this year’s World Cup, providing opportunities for several young players who will be joined by five more experienced players for the third and final match against the West Indies.
The West Indies ODIs are not part of the World Cup Super League.
Fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje were rested for the one-day games but will return for the T20s which will finish three days before two World Cup Super League ODIs against the Netherlands.
Wins against the Dutch will see South Africa qualify automatically for this year’s World Cup.
Nkwe said there had been talks with the Indian board and the Indian Premier League to ensure South Africa would be able to field a full-strength team for the Netherlands matches.
Former South Africa batsman JP Duminy was named as South Africa’s full-time white-ball batting coach.
ODI squads: Temba Bavuma (capt), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Tony de Zorzi, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Sisanda Magala, Keshav Maharaj, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Ryan Rickelton, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tristan Stubbs, Lizaad Williams, Rassie van der Dussen.
They will be joined by Aiden Markram, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller and Wayne Parnell for the third match.
T20I squad: Markram (capt), De Kock (wkt), Fortuin, Hendricks, Jansen, Klaasen, Magala, Miller, Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi, Stubbs.
Djokovic, Swiatek lead singles rankings
Novak Djokovic extended his record of weeks as world number one to 379 in the latest ATP rankings released on Monday, although Carlos Alcaraz remains in hot pursuit.
Pole Iga Swiatek retained her top spot atop the WTA world rankings released on Monday ahead of the start of the Indian Wells Masters.
Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, 20, won her first WTA title Sunday in Austin and rose 12 places to hit 40th place in the global ranking.
Djokovic, the winner of 22 Grand Slam titles, edged ahead of Steffi Graf’s all-time record last week despite losing in the Dubai semi-finals to Daniil Medvedev.
The Russian ended Djokovic’s 20-match win streak and perfect start to 2023 before claiming his third title in as many weeks with defeat of compatriot Andrey Rublev in Dubai.
He moved up a place to sixth.
Second-ranked Alcaraz will take over at the ATP summit if he wins the Indian Wells Masters – Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the event starting this week on Sunday.
The Serb is unable to enter the United States because he is unvaccinated against Covid-19. A petition to US authorities for special permission to enter was rejected.
Seventh heaven for Liverpool
Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah all scored twice as Liverpool shrugged off a season of frustration to thrash Manchester United 7-0 at Anfield on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men set a new record margin of victory in the clash between English football’s two most successful clubs.
“It was one of the best performances for a long, long time. Everybody saw what the boys can be,” said Klopp.
“The second half couldn’t start better. From that moment on we were flying and it was really difficult to play against us.”
Just a second defeat in 23 games in all competitions realistically ends United’s hopes of a first league title in a decade as they remain 14 points adrift of leaders Arsenal in third.
But there could even more lasting damage from a record-equalling defeat for the club in a competitive game and heaviest since 1931.
“The result is quite obvious. It is unprofessional,” said United manager Erik ten Hag.
“There are many things which make me angry. To concede so easy the goals is definitely one.”
Liverpool close to within three points of fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand on Spurs.
Klopp’s side won the two league meetings between the teams by an aggregate score of 9-0 last season, but the tables had seemingly turned this season.
A 2-1 win over the Reds in August gave Erik ten Hag his first win as United boss and his team started the day 10 points clear of Liverpool.
Liverpool have looked a shadow of the side that came close to an unprecedented quadruple of trophies last season.
But either side of a 5-2 humiliation on home soil by Real Madrid, they have got back in the race for a place in the Champions League next season thanks to a run of 13 points from a possible 15 in the Premier League.
“Everybody has to feel us. Everybody has to know we are still around,” added Klopp. “That’s what we have to be from now on”
Ten Hag told his players to embrace the hostile environment of Anfield, where United have not won since 2016.
But they crumbled after Gakpo opened the floodgates two minutes before half-time.
Andy Robertson sliced open the United defence to play in the Dutch international, who cut inside and fired low into the far corner.
Ten Hag’s men were then blown away in the second period as Liverpool’s new-look front three finally clicked.
Nunez punished sloppy United defending as the Uruguayan stooped to head in Harvey Elliott’s cross.
Moments later, Gakpo scored his second with a delightful dink over David de Gea at the end of a lightning Liverpool counter-attack.
It could have been even worse for United as Robertson and Ibrahima Konate saw efforts fly inches wide.
Salah got the goal his performance deserved as he crashed in Nunez’s through ball off the underside of the bar.
Nunez then headed in his second as he was left completely unmarked from Jordan Henderson’s cross.
Salah became Liverpool’s outright all-time Premier League goalscorer with 129 with a simple tap in after more shambolic United defending.
“It’s very special, I can’t lie,” said Salah. “This record was in my mind since I came here. After my first season I was always chasing the record.”
Roberto Firmino will move on at the end of the season it was revealed this week.
But the Brazilian came off the bench to have the final say as he slotted a remarkable seventh two minutes from time.
No Indian Wells for Novak
World number one Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from next week’s ATP/WTA Indian Wells Masters event, organisers confirmed on Sunday with the Serb barred from entering the country.
Djokovic is unable to enter the United States because he is unvaccinated against Covid-19, but he had petitioned US authorities for special permission to enter.
The Indian Wells ATP 1000 event begins next week in the California desert and is followed by the prestigious tournament in Miami which Djokovic is now expected to miss unless US authorities have a change of heart.
The United States still doesn’t allow unvaccinated international travellers to enter the country, with the Transportation Security Administration recently indicating the policy would not change until at least mid-April.
Djokovic will be replaced in the field by Nikoloz Basilashvili, a brief statement said.
Verstappen wins season-opening Bahrain GP
World champion Max Verstappen claimed his maiden season-opening victory and first at the Sakhir circuit on Sunday when he led Sergio Perez home in a dominant Red Bull one-two at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The defending double world champion led from start to finish, bar the pit stops, to establish himself as a strong favourite for a third consecutive drivers’ crown this year.
It was his first win in the Gulf state at the 10th attempt.
Behind the two Red Bulls, two-time champion Fernando Alonso continued to make light of his 41 years by storming his way to a rousing third place for Aston Martin in his first appearance with the team since succeeding the retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
It was his record-increasing 356th race in Formula One in a career that started 22 years earlier, to the weekend, in Melbourne at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.
Fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who he passed in a late scrap for a podium finish, finished fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Lance Stroll, racing in the second Aston Martin just weeks after cracking both wrists and breaking a toe in a pre-season cycling accident.
Real Madrid stumble
Barcelona clung on with 10 men to beat Valencia 1-0 and move nine points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga on Sunday, thanks to Raphinha’s early header. The champions could not find a way through against Real Betis in an entertaining 0-0 draw later on at the Benito Villamarin.
Brazilian winger Raphinha nodded Barca in front in the 16th minute. But after Ferran Torres missed a penalty and Ronald Araujo was sent off, the hosts were left fighting tooth and nail for the three points.
They retreated in the final half hour following Araujo’s 59th minute red card but survived to beat Ruben Baraja’s Valencia, who are 19th and two points from safety.
“We suffered too much, we had many chances to score the second,” Xavi told reporters.
“It can’t be that we have to finish games like that when we have chances. We have to learn how to close out games.”
Barcelona’s 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg triumph over Madrid on Thursday followed two consecutive defeats, and this narrow victory felt like a significant step towards a first league title since 2019.Reigning champions Madrid forged the better openings against Betis but could not find the goal they needed to stay as close as possible on Barcelona’s tail.
Karim Benzema had a free-kick strike disallowed while Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made fine saves to deny the French forward and Vinicius Junior.
Thibaut Courtois was also forced into two superb stops by Betis who showed why they are in contention for a Champions League place next season with a hearty performance.
“It’s quite evident what we’re lacking, we have to be more efficient,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti told Movistar.
“Sometimes opponents close up at the back, but we have the quality and we have to do it better.”
The coach did not think his team’s title defence was over, despite the setback.
“It’s not impossible. It’s very difficult, but we have no doubt we will try until the end,” added Ancelotti.
Madrid winger Vinicius, as has become customary in La Liga, was engaged in a running battle with the Betis defence.
Vinicius has not scored away from home in the top flight since August, but brilliantly set up Benzema at the start of the second half with former Barcelona stopper Bravo parrying the effort.
It was Madrid’s first shot on target since last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid.
Los Blancos have scored just once in their last three games – from a corner.
“I’m more upset than angry,” said Ancelotti.
“I’m upset that this team, with this quality, can’t score a goal in three games (from open play).”
Courtois made a stunning save to thwart Borja Iglesias at the other end, when the striker seemed poised to score.
“We had moments in which we had clear openings, my chance with Thibaut,” Iglesias told Movistar.
“That’s why this guy wins what he wins – he saves a lot.”
Real Valladolid climbed to 14th with a 2-1 over Espanyol, while Rayo Vallecano and Athletic Bilbao shared a 0-0 draw.
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day