Saturday, June 23, 2018

MASOLI, TASKER LEAD TICATS TO ROAD WIN OVER ESKS

The Edmonton Eskimos had no answer for Jeremiah Masoli and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ offence on Friday night, as the versatile quarterback led his team to an impressive 38-21 victory on the road.
Masoli threw for over 300 yards for the second straight week, finishing with 19 completions for 332 yards and three touchdown passes. The dual-threat playmaker also added seven carries for 59 rushing yards, and receiver Luke Tasker contributed a big performance by hauling in five catches for 103 yards and two key touchdown scores.
Hamilton running back Mercer Timmis had a breakout performance on the ground, racking up 133 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. And Brandon Banks had a big game of his own with six grabs for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Mike Reilly and the Esks’ offence managed to put together some big plays, including an 88-yard touchdown pass, but it was not enough in the end to keep pace with the Ticats.
The Ticats came out strong to start the game, with Masoli quickly engineering Hamilton’s first touchdown drive of the season. The 29-year-old quarterback found receiver Terrence Toliver for 27 yards right out of the gate. Toliver made his return the Ticats after missing most of the 2017 season with an injury. Masoli finished the drive by hooking up with Tasker for a 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown to help give Hamilton the opening lead.
But Reilly and the Eskimos’ offence wasted no time in responding, and the veteran gunslinger brought his team down the field just a couple plays later. Reilly demonstrated his ability to connect on the deep ball, finding a streaking D’haquille “Duke” Williams deep down the field for an 88-yard touchdown, swinging momentum in Edmonton’s favour. Williams finished the game with 105 yards receiving.
The Ticats kept things rolling on offence upon getting the ball back, and Masoli showed how dangerous he can be as both a rusher and a passer. Masoli led his team down the field with a 31-yard pass to receiver Brandon Banks and a 20-yard sprint up the middle to put the Ticats in scoring position. Hamilton elected to go for it after facing a third down on the drive, and Masoli pitched the ball to Timmis on the option play to set Hamilton up at the goal line.
Timmis finished off the drive on the very next play, barrelling his way into the end zone with power and quickness for the one-yard touchdown run. Kicker Lirim Hajhrullahu knocked the extra point through to give the Ticats a 14-7 lead.
Aside from the touchdown pass to Williams, Reilly was largely held in check by the Ticats’ defence early on in this one. Edmonton managed to add a single near the start of the second quarter, but Hamilton’s offence quickly took advantage of the opportunity provided by their defence’s strong effort.
Masoli continued to find his rhythm against the Esks’ secondary, leading his team down the field once again with impressive efficiency and accuracy. Masoli threw solid strikes to Banks and Toliver to move the chains before finishing the drive with a 45-yard touchdown connection to Tasker. The 27-year-old receiver found running room up the left side of the field as he racked up 37 yards after the catch, and Banks contributed a key block to secure the score and help give Hamilton a 13-point lead.
The Ticats would add a 44-yard field goal from Hajhrullahu on their next drive to extend their lead again, but Reilly and the Esks’ offence began to get things moving after that. Reilly showed once again how dangerous he can be with the deep ball as he threw an impressive 55-yard bomb to receiver Kenny Stafford to put Edmonton in scoring position.
Reilly followed the big play up by finding playmaker Derel Walker in the end zone for a five-yard score, giving Walker his second touchdown catch of the season. The Esks went for the two-point convert on the ensuing play, but running back C.J. Gable was stopped at the goal line, making the score 24-14 at the half.
Both quarterbacks finished the opening half with over 200 yards and two scores through the air.
Hamilton maintained momentum to start the third quarter, and Masoli showed no signs of slowing down. Stepping up and finding a way to make big throws under pressure, Masoli connected with multiple receivers on the drive before capping it off with a beautiful 18-yard touchdown pass to Banks. Masoli threw the passing score after somehow managing to juke away from an Edmonton pass rusher at the last second, giving Hamilton a 31-14 lead after the extra point from Hajhrullahu.
But the Eskimos found a momentum spark of their own shortly after when linebacker Blair Smith picked off a Masoli throw, giving the Esks some life in the fourth quarter.
Edmonton began to mount a late comeback after Hamilton defensive back Jumal Rolle was called for defensive pass interference while covering Stafford down the field. Reilly capitalized on the field position with a one-yard rushing touchdown, making it a 10-point game with under five minutes to play.
It was Timmis who had the final say in this one, however, as the running back accelerated into open field for a 44-yard touchdown gallop, sealing the 38-21 Hamilton victory. An interception from Hamilton’s Richard Leonard ended the Eskimos’ final attempt to stage a comeback.
The Eskimos will look to get back on track when they host the BC Lions next Friday, while The Ticats will be at home against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Saturday in Week 3 action.

Friday, June 22, 2018

BOMBERS DOMINATE ALL PHASES, CRUSH ALOUETTES 56-10

Any questions surrounding rookie quarterback Chris Streveler‘s ability to lead the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were answered on Friday night, as the 23-year-old pivot threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a dominant 56-10 win over the Montreal Alouettes.
Streveler’s gaudy half-time numbers told one part of Friday’s contest: 18 completions on 22 attempts, 196 pass yards, two touchdowns. With 55 rush yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The other story of Friday’s one-sided game at Percival Molson Stadium?
Tristan Okpalaugo with two of Winnipeg’s three first-half sacks, as part of a larger effort by the Bomber defence to limit Montreal to just 95 yards of offence in the first half.
In other words: At 34-7 after 30 minutes of football, the front end of Friday Night Football’s doubleheader was decided.
The Bombers opened the scoring on the first drive of the evening, as a Streveler-led drive set up a 13-yard Justin Medlock chip-shot field goal.
Okpalaugo and the Winnipeg defence then set the tone on Montreal’s first offensive snap of the ballgame, as the 28-year-old brought down Als quarterback Drew Willy for a loss of eight yards.
Paul LaPolice’s Bomber offence then mixed it up on its next possession, with Streveler lateraling across to Darvin Adams to set up a flea-flicker pass to Andrew Harris in the end zone. Medlock’s convert gave Winnipeg a 10-0 lead.
The Bomber defence then got to Willy again, as Drake Nevis levelled the Montreal pivot with a crunching sack.
Montreal showed some life early in the second quarter, as a powerful 44-yard Tyrell Sutton run set up a Willy-to-B.J. Cunningham touchdown connection. Boris Bede‘s convert cut the hosts’ deficit to just three points.
Winnipeg’s offence roared in response, with a number of Streveler completions setting up a 10-yard touchdown pass to Nic Demski; Medlock’s convert gave the Bombers a 17-7 lead.
Things began to unravel for the Alouettes later in the second quarter; the strong field position earned by a Stefan Logan kick return was negated by a monster sack from Okpalaugo — his second of the night — on Willy.
After that two-and-out, Streveler marched the Bombers back inside the red zone and proceeded to find his former college roommate Drew Wolitarsky in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. Medlock’s convert extended the Bombers’ lead to 17 points.
The second quarter went from bad to worse for the Alouettes on the ensuing drive.
A Willy pass was intercepted by Okpalaugo, only to be brought back on an offside penalty against the latter; Winnipeg defensive back Anthony Gaitor then sacked Willy heavily on the next play for a loss of 12 yards; Boris Bede’s subsequent third-down punt was blocked by Rashaun Simonise and recovered by the Bombers inside Montreal’s 5-yard line.
Two plays later, Streveler punched it in from the goal line himself; the following Medlock convert and a final-play field goal from 40 yards out sent Winnipeg to the locker room with a 34-7 lead.
Medlock and Bede traded third-quarter field goals, and a further Medlock boot from 33 yards out pushed the lead to 40-10.
Two second-half hits from the Alouettes — Jermaine Robinson‘s low tackle on Harris, and then Henoc Muamba with a high tackle on Streveler — resulted in tempers flaring, and when Streveler found Wolitarsky in the fourth quarter for the duo’s second touchdown of the night, emotions ran high. Medlock’s convert made it a 47-10 ballgame.
Montreal’s offence continued to struggle, and Bede conceded a safety.
Winnipeg, meanwhile, continued to show off its quarterback depth; Bryan Bennett relieved Streveler — who started in place of injured regular Matt Nichols — in fashion with three completions for 71 yards and an electrifying 31-yard run.
Bennett’s debut drive culminated in Kienan LaFrance’s first rush touchdown as a Bomber; Medlock’s convert rounded out the scoring on the night and brought the score to 56-10.
Chris Streveler’s final line read 22 of 28 passes completed for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
Montreal linebacker Henoc Muamba registered a game-high 11 tackles in the defeat; nine different players hauled in a catch for Winnipeg.
With the win, the Bombers improved to 1-1 on the young season and now face a Week-3 trip to Tim Horton’s Field to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday Night Football (7 p.m. ET).
The loss dropped the Alouettes to 0-2 on the campaign; Mike Sherman’s team will head west in Week 3 for a date with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday evening (9 p.m. ET).

REDBLACKS DOWN RIDERS, 40-17, ON THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

The Ottawa REDBLACKS shone on both sides of the football en route to a 40-17 win over the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday Night Football at TD Place.
Trevor Harris threw for 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns, William Powell found the end zone twice and Diontae Spencer showcased his dynamic ability in the win for Rick Campbell’s team, which was bolstered by a monstrous performance by its defence at-large.
On the flip side, the Riders lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros in the second quarter and managed just 345 yards of offence — 41 of which came in garbage time — on the night. Four turnovers proved costly for Saskatchewan, which never seemed to find its groove on either side of the football.
The REDBLACKS opened the scoring on the first drive of the night, when a handful of pretty Trevor Harris completions and an offside penalty set up a 26-yard field goal for Ottawa kicker Lewis Ward.
Zach Collaros and the Riders offence struggled on their first two possessions, with a pair of two-and-outs highlighted by a monster sack by Ottawa’s Michael Wakefield.
A second field goal from Ward — another chip shot from 23 yards out — then doubled the REDBLACKS lead.
The visitors woke up offensively late in the first quarter, as Collaros capped a five-play, 62-yard drive with a pinpoint 32-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Williams-Lambert — the latter’s first in the CFL. Saskatchewan kicker Brett Lauther drilled the convert, and the Riders led 7-6 after the opening 15 minutes.
The lead was short-lived, as Collaros’s first pass of the second quarter was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Ottawa’s Jonathan Rose; the pass was intended for Shaq Evans, but Rose jumped the route and returned it 55 yards to the house. Harris then found Greg Ellingson in the corner of the end zone for the two-point convert, giving the REDBLACKS a 14-7 lead.
Collaros responded with a 46-yard bomb to Caleb Holley, taking the Riders into the red zone. Two plays later, however, Ottawa forced an end zone interception as Corey Tindal deflected an end zone pass into the hands of teammate Loucheiz Purifoy.
Two plays later, however, Harris threw a pick-six of his own; enigmatic two-way Rider Duron Carter — exclusively playing defensive back on Thursday night — stepped up, snatched Harris’s pass and returned it 28 yards for a major before his trademark celebration in the end zone. Lauther hit the extra point to tie the game at 14.
The ridiculous back-and-forth play continued on the next drive, as the REDBLACKS marched down the field to set up a dashing 15-yard touchdown run by William Powell. Harris then found Ellingson for yet another two-point convert, and the hosts took a 22-14 lead.
Ward’s third field goal of the evening with 1:28 remaining in the first half sent Ottawa to the locker room with an 11-point lead, and it could have been more as the University of Ottawa product sent a 48-yard effort wide right as the clock expired.
After a two and a half quarters’ worth of chirping, REDBLACKS receiver Diontae Spencer got the best of Carter in their one-on-one matchup midway through the third quarter; Harris chucked up a bomb and Spencer sprinted past Carter on his way to a 56-yard touchdown. The Ottawa quarterback then sprinted the two-point convert in himself to extend the lead to 33-14.
The host defence continued to impress late in the third quarter, as Rico Murray hauled in his first interception as a REDBLACK with an athletic pick of Bridge in the Ottawa end zone.
A 35-yard field goal from Lauther cut the lead to 33-17, but it was as close as the Riders would come.
A handful of Duron Carter pass-interference penalties then gave the REDBLACKS a chance from short range, and Harris and co. did not miss; Powell proved the benefactor as he hauled in a four-yard touchdown reception. Ward’s convert then rounded out the scoring on the night, bringing the lead to 40-17.
The story of the night proved to be Ottawa’s defence, which limited Saskatchewan on offence and came up with four key turnovers — including two interceptions in their own end zone.
REDBLACKS receiver Greg Ellingson hauled in a game-high 104 yards, while Riders linebacker Samuel Eguavoen registered a game-high seven tackles in the losing effort.
With the win, the REDBLACKS moved to 1-0 and will now face the daunting task of travelling across the country for a date with the Calgary Stampeders (1-0) on the Week 3 edition of Thursday Night Football (9 p.m. ET).
The loss dropped the Roughriders to 1-1 on the young season; Chris Jones’s team will now have eight days off to prepare for a home date with the Montreal Alouettes (0-1) next Saturday (9 p.m. ET).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Belgium prevail over gritty Panama

The first-half proceedings did not come as a major surprise, as Panama stuck together and worked for each other in building a wall that Belgium’s talented individuals were unable to breach. Though lacking imagination, Les Diables Rouges still created the clearest chances, with Panama captain Roman Torres working wonders to put a dangerous cross from Kevin De Bruyne out for a corner with 22 minutes gone.
Frustrated and empty-handed at the break, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens returned reinvigorated, not least the Napoli man, who had the Belgium fans cheering when he fired a sumptuous volley past Jaime Penedo just two minutes into the second half. Having finally taken the lead, the men in red found their rhythm and the space in which to express themselves, with Lukaku getting in on the act. After opening his account with a header from a superb De Bruyne cross, he coolly clipped the ball home following a penetrating Hazard run. At last Belgium could breathe easy, their World Cup campaign safely under way. As for Panama, they will need to up their game when they take on England and Tunisia.

Belgium’s individual strengths made up for their failings at a collective level, as they took control of a match without ever producing their best football. That said, winning when not at your best is an attribute that every great side possesses.

It was a match of two halves for Panama. After a promising opening 45 minutes, their man-to-man marking let them down in the second half, with Belgium taking full advantage to pick up the three points. Panama’s lack of precision ultimately cost them dear.

Romelu Lukaku’s exemplary finishing made Belgium’s victory look more emphatic than it actually was. The striker’s prowess in front of goal made all the difference, as he became the first Belgian to score a World Cup brace since Marc Wilmots achieved the feat against Mexico at France 1998.

Belgium’s last victory by two goals or more at the world finals was a 3-1 defeat of Uruguay at Italy 1990. Les Diables Rouges do not have a history of winning big in the competition, but after recording some impressive scorelines in the qualifiers they kept their momentum going against the Panamanians.

What’s next
Belgium-Tunisia, Group G, 23 June, Moscow
England-Panama, Group G, 24 June, Nizhny Novgorod

Sweden win on return to global stage

Following an absence of 12 long years, Sweden marked their return to the FIFA World Cup in style in the opening match of Group F. The desire of Janne Andersson’s charges was there for all to see as they emerged victorious over a disappointing Korea Republic.
The Swedes were rewarded for an enterprising performance in which they created a series of goal-scoring chances. As much due to their own profligacy as to the opposition back-line, the hoards of Scandinavian fans in Nizhny Novgorod were made to wait until the second half before the deadlock was broken.
The Taeguk Warriors conceded a penalty in the 65th minute following confirmation by VAR, and Swedish captain Andreas Granqvist shouldered the responsibility, coolly converting the resulting spot kick.
Korea Republic pushed hard to find a way back into the game, but to no avail. Their disappointing series of results at the World Cup continues: they have now gone six matches without a win, a run that dates back to their victory over Greece in 2010.

Creating goal-scoring chances had been the main concerns surrounding the Swedish team ahead of this game. Carving out opportunities would not prove to be the problem, as the players were clearly eager to prove their critics wrong, but the ball did not want to go in, and in the end it took a penalty kick to secure the three points. A strong start for Sweden showed that they prepared well for their return to the global stage.

A deserved defeat for Korea Republic, who were second best in all aspects of the game. They failed to create any clear opportunities, their defending was sloppy and their passing game lacked fluency. The team may be disappointed, but now the players need to regroup and prepare for the next game.

Captain Andreas Granqvist marshalled the Swedish backline throughout the game, initiated countless attacks and took charge of scoring the penalty that gave his side victory.

Sweden had built up something of a reputation for starting World Cups slowly over the past 60 years. They had not recorded victory in their opening game since a 3-0 win over Mexico in 1958, the tournament at which they would ultimately finish runners-up.

What’s next
Germany v Sweden, Group F, 23 June, Sochi
Korea Republic v Mexico, Group F, 23 June, Rostov-on-Don

Sunday, June 17, 2018

World Cup Recap For June 17, 2018


Stubborn Swiss stifle Brazil

Brazil looked all set to party at one stage but ended up trapped in Switzerland’s intricate defensive web, with a 1-1 draw a fair result as the two sides made their Group E debuts at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
Having dominated possession but without creating clear-cut chances, the tournament favourites took the lead after 20 minutes thanks to the kind of strike Philippe Coutinho has become known for: a spectacular curling drive from outside the box that curled right into the far corner of Yann Sommer’s net.
It looked as if the Rostov night would have a samba beat, but the Swiss had other ideas. Maintaining their intensity, they conjured up an equalizer just after the restart, with Steven Zuber nodding home from inside the six-yard box. The five-time world champions promptly lost their poise, and though they created some late chances, both their finishing and their play was slightly off key.

Brazil were unable to impose their style against very physical opponents. Neymar and his team-mates endured a tough evening and despite Coutinho’s early strike it was not until the end of the game that their best chances came. That said, A Seleção never expected it to be an easy night.

Switzerland’s fast start to the second half took everyone by surprise and got them back into the game following Brazil’s impressive first-half display. Their continuous pressing prevented the South Americans from finding their rhythm again, and their showing after the restart will have the Swiss fans hoping there is more to come.

Philippe Coutinho was Brazil’s brightest spark on what was a challenging evening for his side. His sumptuous strike is sure to figure among the goals of the tournament.

Valon Behrami is the first Switzerland player in history to appear at four World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and now Russia 2018. Kiki Antenen’s record of eight appearances in world finals matches was also equalled tonight, though not by Behrami. Stephan Lichtsteiner was the man pulling level with that mark.

What’s next
Brazil-Costa Rica, Group E, 22 June, Saint Petersburg
Serbia-Switzerland, Group E, 22 June, Kaliningrad

Lozano lights up the Luzhniki as El Tri defeat holders

Mexico pulled off a historic victory in the opening game of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group F, defeating World Cup holders Germany 1-0 in front of a fervent - and full - Luzhniki Stadium. 
Juan Carlos Osorio's masterplan worked to perfection, with El Tri soaking up the long spells of German possession and hitting Die Nationalmannschaft on the counter-attack. Hirving Lozano's strike was a result of a swift break, with green shirts swarming forwards and the PSV Eindhoven man coolly converting past Manuel Neuer.
Joachim Low's side played their part in an enthralling encounter, with Toni Kroos hitting a free kick against the crossbar. Their efforts were ultimately in vain, with the Mexicans claiming all three points.

Amazing – Germany are now the third holders in a row to fail to win their opening match at the following World Cup. Even more worrying: Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 both went out after the group stage and the four-time champions surely have their work cut out for them if they want to avoid a similar fate. Not much worked as they had hoped for and changes will certainly be needed for Joachim Low in the next game.

Mexico came to the match with a plan and stuck to it to perfection. The team learned from their mistakes of the Confederations Cup and designed a system that would prevent the Germans playing their usual passing game and take advantage of the spaces at the back. The last minutes were tense but Mexico rarely allowed clear chances. It was a deserved victory against the world champions.

Hirving Lozano not only scored the winner, but played a key role in El Tri claiming all three points. He pressed and harried the German defence, not giving them a moment's rest until his substitution after 66 minutes.

This defeat represents the first time that Germany have lost the opening game in defence of their Trophy. They beat Argentina 3-1 in 1958, drew 0-0 with Poland in 1978, and defeated Bolivia 1-0 in 1994

What’s next?
Germany-Sweden – Group F, 23 June, Sochi
Korea Republic-Mexico – Group F, 23 June, Rostov-on-Don

Kolarov stunner seals Serbia win

Serbia edged Costa Rica 1-0 after Aleksandar Kolarov scored the third direct free-kick of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. In a tightly-contested duel at the Samara Arena, with both teams creating several goalscoring chances, it was Serbia's day, as the Orlovi put a precious three points on the board.

Costa Rica had opportunities in the first half and they did not take advantage of them. In the second half, Serbia were more confident and scored the decisive goal. This game was about efficacy and accuracy and some players of Costa Rica did not have that this time. Their attackers were isolated throughout the second half and they did not create enough opportunities to score. This was a chess match that Serbia won.

On the pitch today, Serbia did exactly what they promised in the build-up to the match. They played like a team, covering positions for one another, they did not underestimate their opponent and they did not get caught in the headlights of playing in a first World Cup match in eight years. The team’s mix of aggressiveness and creativity in midfield was the driving force of the win, with the foul that led to Kolarov’s free-kick winner coming after an inspired Milinkovic-Savic run. ​

Aleksandar Kolarov came up with the decisive moment of the match, as he struck home an exquisite free-kick to give Serbia a valuable three points in their Group E opener.

Serbia's last four World Cup wins have been by the score of 1-0. Before today's match, Serbia's last three World Cup wins (including when they played as Yugoslavia) were won by that scoreline: v Germany in 2010, v IR Iran and USA in 1998.

What’s next
Brazil v Costa Rica – Group E, 22 June, St. Petersburg

Serbia v Switzerland – Group E, 22 June, Kaliningrad

CFL Week 1 Recap


JENNINGS LEADS LIONS OVER ALS IN WEEK 1 FINALE

Jonathon Jennings and the BC Lions clawed their way to a 22-10 home victory over the Montreal Alouettes in the Week 1 finale on Saturday night. The Lions’ versatile quarterback got his 2018 season off to a hot start, completing 20 of 24 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns while also adding a career-high 57 yards on the ground. BC’s defence did its part as well, adding an interception and five sacks to help hand Montreal their 12th-straight loss.
The Alouettes came out strong on their opening possession, with running back Tyrell Sutton carrying the ball five-straight times to put the Lions’ defence on their heels. Receiver B.J. Cunningham appeared to give Montreal the early lead with a long 52-yard touchdown catch, but the play was called back on a holding penalty.
Drew Willy and the Als’ offence made up for it just two plays later after the veteran quarterback found receiver Chris Williams deep down the field for a 56-yard connection. The ball was knocked loose before Williams could cross the goal line, but receiver Eugene Lewis was there to recover it in the end zone for his first career CFL touchdown. Kicker Boris Bede added the extra point to give Montreal the early 7-0 lead.
Jennings looked sharp on the Lions’ second offensive drive, zipping a slant pass to receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux to get things rolling. The athletic quarterback used both his arm and legs to push his team down the field, and BC’s passing attack found a steady rhythm that would continue throughout the game.
Receiver Bryan Burnham made an acrobatic 12-yard catch on the drive, and Jennings hit receiver Shaq Johnson on the very next play for a 35-yard touchdown. Johnson used his speed to gain separation and get open on the right side of the field, and kicker Ty Long knocked through the extra point to tie the game at seven apiece.
Montreal’s offence looked strong again on their second drive, with Willy hooking up with receiver Ernest Jackson for a big 54-yard strike. But Odell Willis’ first sack as a Lion stifled the Als’ drive, and they would settle for a 30-yard field goal to grab the 10-7 lead. Willy completed 10 of 12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
Jennings continued to make plays in multiple ways after the Lions got the ball back, as the quarterback found space in the Als’ defensive front for a 21-yard run to bring the Lions into Montreal territory. The Als’ defence bounced back on the drive to hold strong, and Long punted the ball for a single to bring BC within two points.
Running back Jeremiah Johnson began to get the Lions’ running game going in the second quarter, and Long would boot another punt for a single to bring the score to 10-9 in the second quarter.
Both defences stole the show in the third quarter, with both defensive lines clogging up running lanes and applying pressure to keep the big plays to a minimum. The lone score of the quarter would be a 27-yard BC field goal from Long, giving the Lions a narrow 11-10 lead.
BC continued to build momentum near the end of the quarter with Jennings completing seven-straight passes, and Long would knock through a 30-yard field to extend the Lions’ lead to 15-10 early in the fourth quarter.
The first turnover of the game came when Willy was picked off by Lions defensive back Garry Peters while trying to complete a short pass over the middle to Eugene Lewis. Jennings continued his big performance immediately after getting the ball back, calling his own number for a 16-yard scamper. The Lions’ offence capitalized on the Peters interception when Jennings connected with receiver Cory Watson for an 11-yard touchdown strike, giving BC a 22-10 lead that would hold to seal the Week 1 victory.
The Alouettes will look to bounce back when they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Friday in Week 2, while the Lions will be off until travel to face the Edmonton Eskimos in Week 3.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

WHEN IT COUNTS: STAMPS COME ALIVE IN FOURTH TO TOP TICATS

It took just over three full quarters but the Calgary Stampeders offence came alive when it counted most, finding pay dirt in the fourth quarter and outlasting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 28-14 in their season opener Saturday evening at McMahon Stadium.
Despite passing for over 200 yards in the first half it was the Stampeders run game that fueled the home squad in the final frame with Don Jackson and Terry Williams combining for 117 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the contest.
The Ticats — who held the lead for a good majority of the game — ran into an active Stampeders secondary down the stretch which shut down Jeremiah Masoli who passed for 302 yards on just under 70% passing.
One of the subplots in this matchup was how the young and inexperienced Tiger-Cats secondary would net out against a veteran-laden Stampeders offence.  Despite scrimmaging from their own seven-yard line to start the game, Calgary pressed the issue early as Mitchell connected twice with Reggie Begelton totaling 70 yards to set up a 23-yard Rene Paredes field goal to open the contest 3-0.
The Stampeders continued to move the ball with ease for the remainder of the first quarter but would lament a few missed opportunities as three overthrows stalled Calgary drives.
Despite being in control most of the opening frame the Stamps would surrender the first major of the game when Masoli helped get his team out of a second-and-long deep in his own end.
Facing pressure, Masoli stepped into a deep throw down the near sideline to WR Mike Jones who had a step on his man and turned a catch-and-run into a 76-yard gain.  On the ensuing play, Masoli went play-action, froze the Stampeders defensive front and scampered 13-yards untouched for the major and a 7-6 Ticats lead heading into the second quarter.
As the second quarter rolled on, it was the tale of two quarterbacks looking to attack in different ways.  Despite some incompletions, Mitchell continued to stretch the field while Masoli took what he could underneath.  Both moved the ball well but could not capitalize once in opposing territory.
The teams traded a pair of field goals before the half with Hamilton holding a slim 11-9 advantage.
Despite each defence forcing drives to come to a halt, both pivots each put up over 200 yards passing in the first half with Masoli completing passes at a rate of 84%.
Masoli continued to operate at a high efficiency when the third quarter began but two consecutive positive possessions ended just past midfield – one by fumble, one by sack.
The Stamps also had challenges gaining traction in the third against a Ticats defence that despite giving up big gains along the ground, took away the deep ball.
Calgary opened the fourth quarter with a 23-yard field goal by Paredes to regain the lead 12-9 before they finally took their biggest lead of the contest. A 39-yard pass interference call on Hamilton’s DB Don Unamba allowed Mitchell to find Kemar Jorden for a 15-yard touchdown with 9:58 remaining.  The five-play, 65-yard touchdown drive was capped off by a Terry Williams run on a two-point conversion to give Calgary a 19-11 lead.
The Tiger-Cats looked to answer and did so with a 43-yard field goal after a pair of completions from Masoli to Jalen Saunders cut the lead to 19-14 with 4:25 on the clock.  Saunders finished with over 100 yards receiving on the day.
The Ticats had an opportunity to make a comeback, taking the ball with 2:33 left and scrimmaging from their 34 yard line.  A pair of Saunders completions put them in Calgary territory Masoli was flished out of the pocket, forced a throw and was picked off by veteran Brandon Smith.
Jackson put the game away shortly thereafter when he took a handoff 44 yards for the touchdown and iced the 28-14 victory.
Hamilton will double dip in Alberta visiting the Edmonton Eskimos in Week 2.  As for the Stampeders, they will get another shot at an Eastern opponent when they visit Toronto for a Grey Cup rematch with the Argonauts.

World Cup Recap for June 16, 2018


Modric-inspired Croatia open with a win

No shots on target, one goal. The statistics at half-time during Croatia's meeting with Nigeria reflected an opening 45 minutes shaded by the Balkan side – but largely dominated by defenders. Ivan Perisic went closest to hitting the target with an effort from 20m after a quarter of an hour, but in the end it was Nigeria's Oghenekaro Etebo who brought joy to the huge Croatian contingent in Kaliningrad, beating his own goalkeeper following a corner.
Cautious in the first half, Nigeria came out with more purpose after the break, only for Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida to keep Odion Ighalo well and truly quiet. In fact, just as the Super Eagles began turning up the pressure on Danijel Subasic's goal, the *Vatreni* (The Fiery Ones) responded by doubling their lead, Luka Modric converting from the spot after William Ekong held Mario Mandzukic in the box. It was no less than Modric deserved after a superb display that earned him the Budweiser Man of the Match award.

This was a difficult match for Croatia, but the Vatreni picked up three points in an excellent opening game for Zlatko Dalic's men. Perhaps they still need to find their rhythm, and perhaps they were not especially impressive, but ultimately they came out on top. There were gaps in the Nigerian defence and Croatia were able to make the most of them.

Nigeria had trouble creating chances, and unfortunate mistakes at set-pieces proved very costly against superior opposition. The Super Eagles lacked imagination up front, and although they were mostly able to frustrate Croatia's talented forwards at the back, it was not enough to secure three points. They now need to overcome Iceland to stave off the prospect of an early exit.

Croatia's captain and playmaker Luka Modric was a decisive presence, taking the corner that led to the opening goal before burying the penalty that gave the Vatreni breathing space. On top of those two crucial contributions, he shone throughout the game with his vision and slick passing.

Croatia ended a run of three games without a victory in their opening fixture at a World Cup. The Vatreni's last win in their first game had been a 3-1 defeat of Jamaica in 1998.

What's next
Argentina v Croatia - Group D, 21 June, Nizhny Novgorod
Nigeria v Iceland - Group D, 22 June, Moscow, Volgograd

Denmark do just enough to edge out Peru

Denmark edged out Peru thanks to Yussuf Poulsen’s second-half goal to join France on three points in Group C of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
The Peru fans were out in force in Saransk, making their players feel right at home. Suitably inspired, they dominated the first half but could not make the most of the opportunities they created. 
Perhaps the pressure of Peru’s 36-year absence from the world finals weighed heavy on their shoulders, with Christian Cueva missing a penalty just before the break. Playing a more patient game, the Danes were unable to generate any clear-cut chances as the first half ended goalless.
Adopting a more adventurous approach after the restart, Denmark were rewarded when Christian Eriksen’s precise through-ball allowed Poulsen to open the scoring. Though the South Americans piled the pressure on in search of an equaliser, the Danes held firm, with keeper Kasper Schmeichel pulling off some fine stops.
Brimming with confidence, Peru put in a performance that banished memories of their long absence from the world finals. The South Americans created numerous opportunities and missed a golden chance from the spot. Finding themselves a goal behind at the start of the second half, they turned to the talismanic Paolo Guerrero, but not even he could prevent them from falling to a defeat that did not reflect their efforts on the pitch.
Denmark came under a lot of pressure at the start of the match, not least on the right flank, and tried unsuccessfully to bring Eriksen into the game with a series of long balls. Though William Kvist was forced off with injury, they found the goal they were looking for and worked hard to defend it, earning three precious points in the process.
Yussuf Poulsen had a match to remember. As well as being in the right place at the right time to collect Eriksen’s pass and score the only goal of the game, he also defended tirelessly and was Denmark’s hero of the hour.
Hoping to celebrate their World Cup return in style, the Peruvians found luck was not on their side, as their winless run in the competition stretched to seven games.
What’s next
Australia-Denmark | *Group C | 21 June, Samara (Samara Arena)
France-Peru
* | Group C | 21 June, Ekaterinburg (Ekaterinburg Arena)