NICE,. Angel Di Maria grabbed two goals while Kylian Mbappe struck on his return from injury as Paris Saint-Germain won 4-1 at Nice yesterday to surge five points clear at the top of Ligue 1.

PSG lost Neymar and the influential Idrissa Gueye to injury over the international break while Mbappe and Edinson Cavani were only fit enough to make the bench for the trip to the Cote d’Azur.

“At the start of a run of six very intensive matches, it’s always good to start with a win,” said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.

“We had a good first half, I was happy. We had chances to control the match but at the start of the second half, we forgot to close it out.”

A spectacular triple save by Walter Benitez kept out Presnel Kimpembe and Abdou Diallo in the opening minutes at the Allianz Riviera but PSG soon made the breakthrough.

Di Maria raced on to a first-time pass from fellow Argentine Mauro Icardi before calmly guiding beyond Benitez in the Nice goal on 15 minutes.

Only Mbappe has been involved in more goals in France this year than Di Maria, who duly doubled his tally six minutes later with a sublime lob from an unfavourable angle.

Marquinhos replaced PSG captain Thiago Silva at half-time and headed against the crossbar at a corner, but a mistake from the Brazilian presented Nice a lifeline on 67 minutes.

An ill-advised attempt at chesting down a cross allowed Kasper Dolberg to tee up Ignatius Ganago to blast home via the underside of the bar.

Any chance Patrick Vieira’s side had of salvaging a result effectively evaporated though with the dismissal of Wylan Cyprien and Christophe Herelle in a matter of minutes.

Cyprien was shown a second yellow card for dissent with Herelle sent off following a VAR review for a petulant slap on Leandro Paredes.

Tuchel threw on Mbappe, restricted to just two substitute appearances since August, for the final eight minutes and PSG made the most of their two-man advantage.

Mbappe drove low under Benitez to claim his first goal since August 11 and then laid on an assist for Icardi to tap home in stoppage time.

Nantes could trim PSG’s lead back to two points today when they head to bottom side Metz, while Rudi Garcia begins his reign as Lyon manager against lowly Dijon.

Garcia, 55, must win over underwhelmed fans and turn around a season that is already threatening to go off the rails after taking charge of Lyon on Monday.

He has been tasked with ending a miserable run that has left them languishing in 14th place after nine games, already seven points away from the Champions League places for which they are expected to challenge. ― AFP

ANTWERP,. Former world number one Andy Murray reached his first semi-final since the 2017 French Open with a battling three-set win over Romania’s Marius Copil in Antwerp yesterday.

The 32-year-old British star, steadily rebuilding his career after major hip surgery earlier this year, defeated qualifier Copil 6-3, 6-7 (7/9), 6-4.

“I feel OK, it’s more how you pull up the following day,” said Murray, who is two wins away from a first title since Dubai in March 2017.

“The good thing about the indoor matches is that the points are fairly short so it doesn’t take as much out of you as on some of the slower courts outside.”

Murray, now ranked a lowly 243 in the world, had the chance to wrap up the quarter-final when he had a match point in the second set tiebreak.

He eventually sealed victory after more than two and a half hours on court with an ace for his third win in three meetings against the 92nd-ranked Copil.

Murray goes on to face France’s world number 70 Ugo Humbert who put out Argentine fifth seed Guido Pella 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner became the youngest ATP semi-finalist in five years when he defeated Frances Tiafoe of the United States 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Sinner, 18, is the youngest to make the last four on tour since 17-year-old Borna Coric at Basel in 2014.

“I think I played good today once more. It was not easy in the end. I was shaking a little bit,” said Sinner, the world number 119.

The teenager fired 10 aces past the 53rd-ranked Tiafoe, saving four of five break points as he backed up his defeat of French top seed Gael Monfils in the second round.

Sinner, who was ranked 778 this time last year, can make the world top 100 next week.

However, he faces a daunting semi-final against three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka after the former world number three got past fellow 34-year-old Gilles Simon of France 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2 in his quarter-final.

Sinner, who lost to Wawrinka at the US Open this year, will become the youngest ATP finalist since Kei Nishikori at Delray Beach in 2008 if he downs the experienced Swiss today. ― AFP

LONDON,. Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton sent his fans a burst of positive energy today after he started the week by saying he felt like “giving up on everything” because the world was in such a mess.

The 34-year-old Mercedes driver is on the brink of winning his sixth championship, possibly in Mexico next week, with his team already sure of a sixth successive title double after sealing the constructors’ crown.

“Good morning world,” Hamilton told his 13.2 million followers on Instagram.

“I just wanted to send a message of positivity to you. I hope your week’s been amazing and wishing you a great weekend.

“I appreciate all the positive vibes you’ve sent my way. I haven’t given up, I’m still right here fighting!”.

The Briton raised eyebrows on Tuesday when he started an Instagram story, which disappeared after 24 hours, with some cryptic comments.

“Why bother when the world is such a mess and people don’t seem to care,” the 34-year-old said then.

He later made clear he was talking about the environment and wanted people to follow a plant-based vegan diet, as he has done.

That post, soon removed, drew supportive comments from concerned fans as well as criticism from those pointing out his global footprint as a racing driver flying around the world for a car manufacturer sponsored by an oil giant.

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, sounded a supportive tone on Twitter, while appreciating that Hamilton would get “no end of flak.

“We are all hypocritical to greater or lesser degrees,” he added. “But if people like him don’t speak out then we all carry on in the same vein and don’t even try to change. It’s not that bad, eating carrots.”

Hamilton, who sold his private jet earlier in the year but still has a collection of supercars, is no stranger to stirring up social media.

In 2017 he deleted all his instagram posts and apologised after posting a video in which he jokingly chastised his nephew for wearing a princess dress on Christmas Day, saying ‘boys don’t wear princess dresses.’

He recently deleted all the accounts he follows on Instagram, saying he “wanted kind of a fresh slate.”

“You wake up and the first thing you do is turn on your Instagram and check what’s happening. You’re always catching up and I just decided to change,” he said then.

“I wake up now and I have a bit of a read, I start my day differently and I’m hardly ever on it and this has made a big difference to my life, personally.”

At McLaren in 2012 Hamilton tweeted confidential team telemetry, and in 2016 he kicked up another storm by playing around with Snapchat during an official news conference and then taking issue with the media. — Reuters

ANTWERP,. Former world number one Andy Murray cruised into the quarter-finals at Antwerp yesterday with a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, is attempting to work his way back to form almost 10 months after career-saving hip surgery.

The Scot, currently ranked 243rd in the world, held serve throughout against eighth seed Cuevas before sealing victory in 84 minutes.

He will take on Romania’s Marius Copil ― who hit 13 aces past third seed Diego Schwartzman in a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (9/7) win ― on Friday for a place in the last four.

“I felt a bit better today. I thought I served quite well for most of the match and when I was able to get into the baseline rallies, I felt I was hitting the ball quite clean, which is good,” Murray said.

“He served very well, which made it difficult for me to get the breaks, but I thought for me it was a good match.”

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner dumped out top seed and 2018 runner-up Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first ATP quarter-final.

Next up for the 18-year-old Sinner is American Frances Tiafoe, a straight-sets winner over seventh-seeded German Jan-Lennard Struff.

“I played a very solid game. He didn’t play his best tennis for sure. It’s not easy if you make the final the year before and then to come here to play a young player and wild card,” world number 119 Sinner told atptour.com

“I think I played solid today. I served good on the important points and I think that was the key today.” ― AFP

LONDON,. Manchester City believe the sporting integrity of the Premier League has been compromised by the scheduling of a hectic festive period that will see the English champions play twice in less than 48 hours.

City’s game at Wolves has been pushed back from Boxing Day to December 27, kicking off at 7.45pm (1845 GMT).

That gives them less than two days to prepare for their game at home to Sheffield United, now set for 6pm on December 29.

The change to the Wolves fixture also means Nuno Espirito Santo’s men will have 24 hours less to rest ahead of their trip to City’s title rivals Liverpool on December 29.

Liverpool already hold an eight-point lead over City at the top of the table.

“Premier League games are a huge physical demand, and it’s not ideal to be made to play twice in less than 48 hours because it doesn’t give the players time to properly recover,” City’s chief operating officer Omar Berrada told the Manchester Evening News.

“We also need to make sure that we protect the players’ wellbeing, the sporting integrity of the league, and the quality of the product.

“We’ve had an open dialogue with the league to consider other options, but ultimately, we will have to comply with the kick off times and dates as they have been presented to us.”

Liverpool fans are also unhappy at the fixture announcement made yesterday as they face the trip to Leicester for an 8pm kick-off on Boxing Day, a national holiday with limited public transport available.

“The latest round of televised Premier League games has been announced and once again there is scant, if any, consideration given to match-going supporters and those employed at the stadiums,” Liverpool fans group the Spirit of Shankly said in a statement.

“The Premier League and TV companies repeatedly ignore the welfare of supporters. But they do have a chance to redeem themselves.

“Spirit of Shankly call on the authorities to do the right thing and revert all Boxing Day fixtures to a sensible kick-off time.”

Supporters groups had already been angered by the delay in releasing the fixtures, which were originally scheduled to be announced on October 11.

“These fixtures are five days late. This impacts on family arrangements, the price of train tickets, the ability to book leave and much more,” said the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust.

“It is especially sensitive over Christmas, when match-going fans already have challenges regarding fitting in with family arrangements.” ― AFP

LONDON,. Formula One teams have agreed to let Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso compete under the new name of Alpha Tauri from next season after an email vote, sources said yesterday.

There was no official word from Italy-based Toro Rosso or the FIA.

Alpha Tauri is a fashion brand also owned by the Austrian energy drink company.

Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Italian translation of “Red Bull Team”, raced as Minardi before the change of ownership at the end of 2005.

They won the Italian Grand Prix from pole position at Monza with Sebastian Vettel in 2008, a rare occasion of a Ferrari-powered team beating the works outfit. Toro Rosso now use Honda engines. — Reuters

LOS ANGELES,. American boxer Patrick Day died yesterday after suffering a serious brain injury during his knockout defeat to Charles Conwell last weekend, promoter Lou DiBella said in a statement.

The 27-year-old super welterweight had undergone emergency surgery after being knocked out by Conwell on Saturday at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena.

“On behalf of Patrick’s family, team, and those closest to him, we are grateful for the prayers, expressions of support and outpouring of love for Pat that have been so obvious since his injury,” DiBella said.

Day, who had been in a coma following surgery at Northwestern Memorial hospital, died surrounded by family and friends.

The American fighter had been carried unconscious from the ring on a stretcher on Saturday following his 10th round knockout.

Conwell, a 2016 American Olympian, dropped Day in the fourth and eighth rounds and then landed a right hand in the 10th which caused Day to stumble.

Seconds later Conwell rocked Day with a massive left hook that resulted in Day falling backwards and his head bouncing off the canvas. Referee Celestino Ruiz called off the fight at one minute, 46 seconds of the round.

Day lay on the canvas for several minutes receiving medical treatment before being removed from the ring.

Day is at least the third boxer to die from injuries sustained in the ring this year.

Argentine boxer Hugo Santillan died in July following a bout in San Nicolas, just north of Buenos Aires.

Santillan’s death came just two days after Russian fighter Maxim Dadashev died from brain injuries suffered in a fight in Maryland.

In his statement yesterday, DiBella said he hoped Day’s death would prompt US authorities to adopt tougher safety standards.

“It becomes very difficult to explain away or justify the dangers of boxing at a time like this,” DiBella said.

“This is not a time where edicts or pronouncements are appropriate, or the answers are readily available. It is, however, a time for a call to action.

“While we don’t have the answers, we certainly know many of the questions, have the means to answer them, and have the opportunity to respond responsibly and accordingly and make boxing safer for all who participate.” — AFP