Real Madrid’s La Liga title hopes all but ended on Tuesday after Girona striker Taty Castellanos scored four times to help his side beat the defending champions.
In the Premier League, Aston Villa inched closer to a spot in next season’s Uefa Champions League while relegation threatened Leeds United and Leicester played out a 1-1 draw.
The All England Club announced that it will provide accommodation for Ukrainian players at Wimbledon, donate money to Ukrainian causes and provide funding for a day at the tournament for 1,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 26 April, 2023:
Girona thump Madrid
Girona striker Taty Castellanos hit an incredible four goals as his side thrashed champions Real Madrid 4-2 in La Liga on Tuesday, helping leaders Barcelona edge closer to the trophy.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are 11 points behind Barcelona having played one extra match, with this defeat virtually killing any hope they had remaining of defending the title.
Fourth-place Real Sociedad earned a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Real Betis to frustrate the Andalusians, fifth, ensuring a six-point gap remains between them.
Girona’s Castellanos was left in tears after missing a big chance against Barcelona earlier in April in a goalless draw, but made amends in spectacular fashion at Montilivi against Madrid.
The Argentine striker, on loan at Girona from New York City FC – owned by the City group – exposed gaps in Madrid’s defence ahead of their Champions League semi-final tie against Manchester City in May.
Osasuna beat Cadiz 1-0 thanks to Ruben Garcia’s long-range goal, although they had winger Ez Abde sent off late on, minutes after coming off the bench.
Villa up to fifth in Premier League
Aston Villa moved up to fifth in the Premier League with a 1-0 win over Fulham on Tuesday, as Leeds and Leicester played out a 1-1 draw in the battle to beat the drop.
Villa are now unbeaten in 10 games as they make a late push for Europe thanks to a remarkable turnaround since Unai Emery took charge.
Tyrone Mings scored the only goal at Villa Park as the England international headed in John McGinn’s corner after 21 minutes.
Emery’s men did not reach the heights they have in recent weeks, but did enough to edge above Tottenham and to climb within five points of the top four, albeit having played more games than Newcastle and Manchester United in the battle for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Leeds and Leicester remain perilously poised just above the relegation zone after the points were shared in an entertaining encounter at Elland Road.
The Foxes had won for the first time since February against Wolves on Saturday in Dean Smith’s first home game in charge and looked to have made the perfect start when Youri Tielemans’ strike found the top corner, but the goal was ruled out for offside against Boubakary Soumare.
Leeds swiftly went up the other end to go in front when Luis Sinisterra headed in Jack Harrison’s brilliant cross.
Jamie Vardy had not scored in the Premier League for six months, but picked the perfect time to net a huge goal 10 minutes from time when he latched onto James Maddison’s pass.
A draw leaves Leeds still one point ahead of Leicester, who themselves edge one point clear of the bottom three.
Wolves moved to the brink of survival by pulling nine points clear of the relegation zone after inflicting Roy Hodgson’s first defeat since returning as Crystal Palace manager with a 2-0 win at Molineux.
Wimbledon offers extra help to Ukrainian players
Wimbledon organisers said on Tuesday they will offer extra financial support to Ukrainian players and causes after reversing a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes at this year’s event.
The All England Club, which runs Wimbledon, announced last month that the ban imposed last year would not continue after they were stripped of ranking points and punished by the WTA and ATP with hefty fines.
Competitors from the two nations will be able to enter the Grand Slam, which starts on July 3, as “neutral” athletes providing they comply with certain conditions, which include a ban on expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At a press conference to announce plans for the 2023 tournament, organisers revealed that £1 from every ticket sold – expected to be more than £500,000 ($625,000) in total – will be donated to Ukrainian relief.
Funding will be provided for a day at the tournament for 1,000 Ukrainian refugees.
Two hotel rooms per Ukrainian player will also be offered free of charge as well as training facilities for the duration of the summer grass-court season.
F1 shakes up sprint race format
Formula One approved a shake-up to the sprint format on Tuesday in time for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
In Baku, which stages the first of this season’s six sprints, the 100-kilometre dash becomes a standalone event on the Saturday of race weekends.
A shortened qualifying version will be held in the morning of the approximately 30 minute race to define the starting order for the sprint first introduced in 2021.
Qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix will now he held on Friday, the traditional three-session qualifying preceded by a first practice session.
The shake-up was given the green light by the teams at the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the month, with the changes rubber stamped by the FIA’s F1 commission on Tuesday.
Up to now, the three sprints held in 2021 and last year have shaped the grid for Sunday’s main event.
Teams and Formula One believe the revised race weekend will now give Saturday’s action added excitement to fans with the doing away of the often less than enthralling second practice session.
Saturday’s qualifying will be known as ‘the Sprint shoot-out’ with the first qualifying session or Q1 running for 12 minutes, Q2 for 10 minutes and Q3 for eight minutes.
F1 hopes that with its new standalone status drivers will have an added incentive ‘to go for it’, knowing any incidents will not have a bearing on where they start in the Grand Prix.
The Sprint points system remains unchanged, with eight going to the winner down to one for eighth place, meaning a maximum points haul of 34 on offer to a driver winning the sprint, grand prix, and posting the fastest lap.
Toni Nadal optimistic over Rafa’s French Open participation
Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal, is optimistic his nephew will play at the French Open, but admitted Tuesday that the record 14-time champion will not arrive under ideal circumstances.
“Rafa is recovering, I think it won’t be long before he can compete again, but in the tournament here (the Madrid Open) it could not be,” Toni Nadal told Spanish public broadcaster TVE.
Rafa Nadal announced he would not participate in Madrid last week as he continues to recover from the hip injury he suffered in January in the Australian Open.
The 36-year-old said recovery was not going as planned and he would try a new type of treatment, without setting a deadline for himself to heal, casting doubt over his participation in Paris.
He is hoping to accomplish a record-extending 23rd men’s Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, with the tournament beginning on May 28.
“Obviously he will not arrive with good preparation, we must not fool ourselves, because, obviously, since January 10 I think, he hasn’t played any matches,” added Toni Nadal.
“He hasn’t competed for quite some time, apart from that, before January, he didn’t compete much either, but I think Rafael will pick up form soon,” continued Toni Nadal.
“In a Grand Slam, it depends a lot on the draw. If you’re lucky enough to have a good draw in the first rounds, then... well.
“Rafael in the second week is already a favourite, in the first week, lately maybe he is not, he was not last year in Australia, but from the second week, you say well, we can count on him.
“And I hope the same thing happens at Roland Garros.”
Big Bash League ramps up pay in battle for T20 stars
Cricket Australia announced major changes Wednesday to Big Bash League contracting rules, including a hike in player payments, in a bid to lure more top talent to the Twenty20 competition.
The highest-paid overseas players will now command AUS$420,000 (US$280,000) in the draft, up 23.5 percent, as part of a raft of new measures for the 13th edition of the men’s competition.
Australia’s domestic women’s T20 tournament, the WBBL, has also reconfigured its contracting system.
Each of the eight franchises in the men’s BBL must have at least six “marquee” players earning AUS$200,000 or more a season.
The BBL clubs will now each have total player payment pools of AUS$3 million, up from AUS$1.9 million.
“With top international players able to earn more in the Big Bash Leagues than ever before, there’s no doubt clubs will have a high-calibre group of players to choose from,” said Alistair Dobson, Cricket Australia’s general manager of Big Bash Leagues.
“The new player contracting rules and uplift in total payment pools will allow both the WBBL and BBL to remain internationally competitive in an increasingly dynamic market.”
Many of the top T20 players in the world are currently competing in the hugely lucrative Indian Premier League, which this year also added a women’s tournament.
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day