Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he has a soft spot for Paolo Di Canio. “As I wrote the other week, he wears his heart on his sleeve and I like his football philosophy, wanting to play the ball on the ground rather than in the air. “I have this picture in my mind of him being in the technical area pointing to the sky and then the ground in an effort to get his players to keep the ball down. “He has a tough challenge on his hands with his fight to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.” Di Canio faces a baptism of fire at Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, when defeat would send Sunderland hurtling into the relegation zone should Wigan beat QPR. Press Association Di Canio’s appointment as Sunderland manager has been overshadowed by the furore over his links to fascism, which after three days of hot debate, finally triggered a statement from him in which he denied supporting the ideology. Ferguson has not got involved in that particular argument. However, speaking to United Review ahead of Manchester United’s derby encounter with City on Monday, Ferguson said he does like Di Canio’s management philosophy. “I must confess to a liking for the fellow and his approach to the game,” said Ferguson.
Kirby Toon (1) and Alexis Mitchell (4) had nice games offensively for the Badgers, but the Iowa defense was too tough for UW.[/media-credit]In its first conference game of the season, the Wisconsin volleyball team fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes in four sets at the Field House Wednesday night.After dropping the first set 25-21, the Badgers (5-5, 0-1 Big Ten) came back in the second to beat the Hawkeyes 25-19 in the second set. Battling to a tough 26-22 loss in the third set, the Badgers were unable to keep up with Iowa in the final set, falling 25-18.“I thought we started a little slow the first game and we just really weren’t on track at all,” UW head coach Pete Waite said. “But by the second set things picked up, and I thought we were playing some really nice volleyball.”With senior captain and outside hitter Brittney Dolgner sidelined for most of the game because she was recovering from the flu, Waite made several substitutions throughout the match. In particular, Allison Wack had to fill in for Dolgner, which proved to be a simple task for the junior.“You never know coming in to a match who’s going to be ill,” Wack said. “This week it was just kind of a surprise and everyone always has to be ready, and that’s something that our bench is getting better at. Just being able to come in and fill in whenever.”Waite allowed most his team to play, using several different lineups to try to create a more effective unit. Despite the game’s result, he was pleased with the bench players’ efforts.“We subbed a lot of different people in,” Waite said. “A lot of people had a chance to contribute to the game, so I thought they did a good job.”While Dolgner has proved to be one of the Badgers’ top players, Waite noted her recovery was keeping her from helping the team when it needed her. That, along with the other players’ success, was enough for the head coach to keep his captain on the bench.“She wasn’t quite herself out there, didn’t have the same elevation on the jump,” Waite said. “You know, the shots weren’t there. She was tentative and you know, you take days off like that and your body is feeling the way it does after it happens, we knew that was a possibility.”When Waite brought in Alexis Mitchell in the third set, she made a huge impact, notching four kills in the set. While she hadn’t received as much playing time as other players on the team in recent matches, her play certainly kept the Badgers in contention for much of the game. “I’ve had a lot of reps in practice,” she said. “Just swinging hard and being aggressive and I think when I came in I had that mindset of just hitting right off the block and getting us some points and it worked out pretty well.”Bringing in Wack and Mitchell paid huge dividends for the Badgers. Wack had a game-high 17 kills while Mitchell contributed seven kills on only 15 attempts while Dolgner watched from the sidelines.“Al Wack had big numbers. I thought she looked really comfortable out there tonight both in servicing and attacking the ball, so I thought that was really good,” Waite said.Despite the strong games from Wack and Mitchell and 13 kills from freshman Kirby Toon, the Iowa defense was simply too much for the Badgers to handle. Coming into the game with the best statistical defense in the Big Ten with 17.36 digs per set, the Hawkeyes exhibited their superior blocking ability, negating Wisconsin’s 59 kills with 15 total blocks.Nevertheless, while Iowa proved to be a formidable opponent on the defensive side, Waite noted the Badgers would have had a better chance of winning if they cut down on simple mistakes. Even though libero Kim Kuzma had a strong defensive game with a game-high 18 digs, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Badgers’ miscues.“Kim Kuzma was passing really, really well, so it allowed us to run the offense,” Waite said. “But I just think we made too many unforced errors. We didn’t ball-handle well at the important times and that’s just critical. It changes momentum and we gave them too many points.”On Friday, the Badgers travel to Minnesota to take on the Gophers in their next Big Ten matchup. Last year, the Gophers swept Wisconsin, beating the Badgers 3-1 in Minneapolis and 3-2 at the Field House.
Blake Griffin of the Clippers has shown no reluctance to get in the paint after missing 15 consecutive games with a staph infection in his right elbow. He might even be going in there more since his return a week ago Sunday. His rebound numbers attest to that as he was averaging 9.5 in the four games he had played before Sunday’s 107-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans; he was averaging 7.7 on the season.Indeed, it appears there was no way Griffin was going to take anything easy once he got back in the fold. On Friday, he went hard to the ground on his back after being fouled by Washington’s Nene with 5:39 left in the third quarter while going hard to the basket. Nene was called for a flagrant 1 foul. Less than a minute earlier, Paul Pierce had committed a flagrant 1 foul on Griffin. Griffin had no reaction either time, and he explained why.“I don’t think any of them were malicious,” Griffin said. “That’s just kind of a read. When you don’t think anything is meant to be done in a harmful way, there’s no need to react. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Chris Paul has his teammates’ back, and has been offering him emotional support.“It’s tough,” Paul said. “Jamal is a huge part of this team. We need him. But guys have been stepping up. I tell Jamal all the time that we’re going to need him more in the postseason than we do right now.“He is doing everything he can to get back on the court.”Coach Doc Rivers admitted after Friday’s victory over the Washington Wizards that there is a chance Crawford might not return. Prior to tipoff Sunday, Rivers said, “Jamal told me he’s feeling better, it just doesn’t seem like he is.”Rivers conceded that Crawford’s injury is worse than the team initially thought.“Probably,” he said. “I think (head trainer) J.P. (Jasen Powell) was concerned pretty much right away, but I think even he’s been caught off guard; not off guard, he probably thinks it’s worse than we thought.”Crawford, who turned 35 Friday, is shooting 40.1 percent from the field and 34.5 percent (115 of 345) from 3-point range. For his career, he’s shooting 41.1 percent overall and 35 percent from beyond the arc.But any time one is assessing Crawford’s percentages, the difficulty of many of his shots is higher than most.Crawford showed up in the locker room pregame Sunday and was not limping as much as he was a few days earlier.UpcomingThe Clippers (46-25) now embark on a three-game road trip that will feature stops Wednesday at New York, Friday at Philadelphia and Sunday at Boston. When they come back, they will host Golden State on March 31. “They are a physical group, but we are, too. So you just have to take hits and then keep going and show that you can take hits.” Griffin only had five rebounds Sunday to go with his 23 points, but he’s still averaging 8.6 rebounds since his return. His career average is 9.8.Paul supports CrawfordOne has to wonder how the Clippers’ chances in the postseason will be affected if they are without a healthy Jamal Crawford, who Sunday missed his 10th consecutive game with a right calf injury.Crawford averages 16.4 points off the bench and though his shooting-percentage numbers are down just a bit, there can be no mistaking that he remains a very clutch player, the kind who can miss his first four shots and make his next six.
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LOS ANGELES >> Aggressive bullpen management has become the mortgage bundles of the postseason. It can make you rich – or leave you destitute.Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled his starter, Kenta Maeda, with two outs in the fourth inning Thursday night despite the fact that Maeda had allowed just one run and the opposing pitcher was coming up. The march of matchup relievers began – and blew up in the Dodgers’ faces when setup man Joe Blanton gave up a two-run home run to Addison Russell in the sixth inning.Russell’s second home run in as many days was only the start as the Chicago Cubs handed the Dodgers an 8-4 defeat in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.After going 21 innings without a run, the Cubs have scored 18 times in the past 15 innings. “He was around 75 pitches and I felt that he was starting to lose that fastball command and I thought the breaking ball wasn’t as sharp,” Roberts said even though Maeda had struck out Russell and got David Ross on a soft fly out to bring Lester to the plate.Lester had “put a good swing” on a fly ball in the second inning and Roberts had no intention of letting him face the top of the order, Dexter Fowler again. So he pulled Maeda and brought in Josh Fields to face Lester and starting the tag-team relay of six relievers.“I was a little surprised,” Maeda said through his interpreter, the diplomacy in his answer not lost in translation.The baton was successfully passed to Blanton in the sixth inning with the score tied, 1-1. He gave up a leadoff single to Baez who stole second while Heyward was striking out.That brought up Russell who was 1 for 25 in the postseason and hadn’t hit a home run since Sept. 19 before he went deep against Julio Urias in the fourth inning on Wednesday night. Russell had two more hits in Game 4 but struck out in both at-bats against Maeda on Thursday.He took a slider from Blanton for a called strike then clubbed the next one as it hung over the plate. During the regular season, Blanton allowed just two home runs after June and none after the end of August. But he has given up two of the most costly blows of the NLCS – Miguel Montero’s pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning of Game 1 and Russell’s lead-grabbing homer in Game 5.“Going back to the last series, my slider hasn’t been ‘normal’ even though I was getting the results,” Blanton said, adding that he has been trying to find “fixes” during the limited down time between postseason games.“You go through cold spells over the course of the season. I’m just having one at a really, really bad time.”The Dodgers tried to give Lester – whose defensive yips are his biggest weakness – a bad time with bunts and aggressive leads when they did manage to get on base. That wasn’t often though. They had just five hits in seven innings against the left-hander – that again! – and scratched out just one run.Howie Kendrick doubled with one out in the fourth. With Adrian Gonzalez batting, Kendrick broke for third and stole the base – only after replay corrected the original call.Nursing a 1-0 lead at that point, Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to play the infield in. The strategy could have worked when Gonzalez bounced weakly to Rizzo. But the Cubs first baseman bobbled the ball, allowing Kendrick to score without a throw.“The last few times we’ve faced him we’ve gone out with a gameplan of trying to make him uncomfortable with bunts and being aggressive with our leads and he pitched two incredible games,” Gonzalez said. “So maybe we should go out there trying to slug.”By the time the Dodgers scored again in the eighth inning, the Cubs had regained the lead on Russell’s home run and padded it with a blunder-aided five-run slog of an eighth against reliever Pedro Baez.Baez was guilty of making his own mess. He dropped Gonzalez’s feed on a play at first base and failed to cover first when Gonzalez made a nice stop on a Fowler grounder with runners at second and third.An overturned call at second base extended the inning long enough for Javier Baez to drive in three runs with a double, sending the Cubs back to Chicago with a 3-2 lead in the series.“Obviously our backs are against the wall. But we kind of feel like we’ve been ther all year,” Blanton said. “When Kersh went down, everyone wrote us off. When we went to Washington for Game 5, when we lost Game 1 (to the Cubs), everyone wrote us off again and they’re probably writing us off now. That’s fine.” “We can grab that momentum back with one name – Kershaw,” Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “Obviously we don’t want to put it all on him. Obviously we have to score some runs for him.”They will have to do it at Wrigley Field where the Cubs had the best home record in baseball during the regular season (57-24) and now need to win just once more in order to advance to their first World Series since 1945. The Cubs will have to beat either a rested Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 on Saturday or Rich Hill in a potential Game 7 on Sunday to do it.“I thought (the past) two nights we got beat. We got beat,” Roberts said. “So we’ll get a day away from this to re-set and we’ve got Clayton going in Game 6. So that’s a game we expect to win.”Maeda’s early postseason results did not make him a candidate for a long leash in Game 5. Three of the Cubs’ first four batters reached base against him on Thursday but only one scored on Anthony Rizzo’s RBI double.He ducked and dodged away from any more damage but Roberts had clearly seen enough when Maeda gave up a double to Javier Baez leading off the fourth and followed that up by hitting Jason Heyward with a pitch.