Sports News in China
With 28 years of grassroots coaching experience behind him, Gao Yuan has good reason to describe himself as one of the seed sowers of China's soccer dream.
And he firmly believes those seeds are starting to sprout, even if the country's senior side came up short in its latest attempt at World Cup qualification this year.
"The starting point of the country's soccer landscape was like a desert, and for decades we have been sowing the seeds for the future," said Gao, who is now the director of the soccer education and research department at Capital University of Physical Education and Sports in Beijing.
"If everyone can truly work for the good of the future generations, excellent Chinese soccer players will emerge. I'm not bragging. It will take time and I always have faith."
Gao's conviction is mirrored in numerous other long-toiling devotees of the game here.
A thousand kilometers away in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, Wang Liangchao has been running a free soccer clinic for local children for over 20 years.
Kids aged 4 to 13 can join the clinic on weekends and vacations. Apart from their boots and uniform, tuition is free, with Wang referring to the initiative, which began in 1996, as "the light of hope" as far as the country's fortunes on the pitch are concerned.
"The original purpose of starting a free soccer clinic was to attract more children to the game," said Wang, who began his coaching career at Northwest University of Political Science and Law in 1991.
"This is just like a hope project in soccer. I want to start a process, which can be easily copied and spread by other coaches, to promote soccer among the younger generations. My youngest student was four years old."
China's grassroots efforts have not gone unnoticed, even earning international acclaim.
Last month, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) received the Asian Football Confederation's President Recognition Award for Grassroots Football at the AFC's annual gala in Thailand.
The award, which the CFA also won in 2013, recognizes the special attention China has paid to technical programs recently, with over 260 training courses involving around 17,000 participants conducted nationwide.A high-school team (in black) from Heihe, Heilongjiang province, takes on a team of Russian students. [Qiu Qilong/For China Daily]
"We would like to thank the AFC for giving this important recognition to China's grassroots development," said Lin Xiaohua, a senior CFA official, at the gala.
"Over the last several years, strong support from the Chinese government has enabled us to launch many grassroots programs. A lot has been done but we are determined to do more to increase soccer participation in our country."
Winning is the ultimate goal of any competitive sport. However, both Wang and Gao have urged people to think beyond silverware and championships to better sustain China's soccer development.
"My father was also a soccer coach and I was raised in the culture and atmosphere of the sport," said Wang. "I always feel that it is my duty to promote the sport, and that is why I started the free clinic to influence the younger generation.
"The most significant effect of the grassroots game is letting more people, especially children, regard soccer as an indispensable part of their life."
Gao also advocates such an holistic approach.
"We are not lacking tactical and technical training for children, and winning matches seems to be the only thing that matters," said Gao.
"However, the most important thing that we have missed in the past is to immerse kids in the culture of soccer."A young girl practices her dribbling skills during a recent soccer clinic in Langfang, Hubei province. [Wang Xiao/Xinhua]
Gao admitted that only a very small number of his students are good enough to eventually turn pro. But he's adamant that doesn't mean his work is in vain.
"No matter how good they are as players, lots of my students might just be PE teachers in primary schools or middle schools," he said.
"That's good enough because they can influence more young kids. In the future, those students could also be soccer club managers, soccer journalists or soccer event organizers. This can help build the game's culture and environment."
NAGOYA, Japan - World junior figure-skating champion Alina Zagitova on Saturday led a Russian one-two to capture her first Grand Prix Final crown, maintaining a superb performance in her senior debut season.
The Russian teenager's triumph came as the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday banned the country from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea over a state-orchestrated doping program.
The 15-year-old Zagitova topped the free program session in style after ending second in the previous day's short routine, earning 223.30 points in total ahead of fellow Russian Maria Sotskova, who scored 216.28 points.
World silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada sank to third as she fell on the ice, failing to keep her lead in the short program.
Zagitova, who won gold on her grand prix debut in Beijing and grabbed another in Grenoble, both last month, opened with a dazzling triple Lutz-triple loop combination.
After eking out the landing of a double Axel-triple toeloop combination, Zagitova showed off soaring jumps and elegant spins to Don Quixote.
"To be honest, it was hard to skate today," Zagitova said.
"I really wanted to do well and my legs were a bit shaky, but towards the end I pulled myself together and everything went well."
Asked about the IOC's ruling at a news conference on Friday, Zagitova declined to comment.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia would allow athletes to compete at the Olympics under a neutral flag after the IOC said clean Russians would be allowed to take part in the Games.
The women's field was also shadowed by the absence of two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, who missed the prestigious competition due to an injury.
Earlier on Saturday, Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany won the pairs title by beating Chinese duo Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.
ST MORITZ, Switzerland - American Lindsey Vonn sustained an injury during the World Cup super-G race in St Moritz on Saturday as Switzerland's Lara Gut crashed halfway down the course.
Vonn, a four-time overall World Cup champion and considered the finest woman skier of her generation, fell to the ground grimacing after crossing the finishing line before she staggered away with what appeared to be either a hip or back injury.
Vonn, who finished 24th, spent just under an hour in the medical treatment tent before being escorted to a waiting car and being driven away. The 33-year-old walked the few meters to the car with great difficulty.
An ambulance was called but was not needed.
With two months to go before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Vonn said on Twitter that she had "an acute facet (spinal joint) dysfunction" but said she might still compete in Sunday's race - another super-G.
"I got compressed on the sixth gate and my back seized up. Rested and had a lot of therapy tonight. We will see how I feel tomorrow and then decide if I will race," she said.
The US team said Vonn "skied through pain but didn't have power to push".
Vonn, a downhill gold medalist in Vancouver in 2010, missed the 2014 Games in Sochi because of a knee injury.
Gut, recently recovered from a serious knee injury, lost her balance high on the course, fell and flew into the safety netting. She was able to walk away after being disentangled by course officials.
Gut, the overall World Cup winner in 2016 and bronze medalist in the downhill in Sochi, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in her knee at the same venue at the world championships in February.
The race, on a shortened course, was held in difficult conditions and was interrupted several times as wind blew clouds of snow across the course.
Switzerland's Jasmine Flury, who had never previously finished on the podium in a World Cup race, was a surprise winner in one minute 2.59 seconds after starting from 14th.
The 24-year-old finished 0.10 seconds ahead of compatriot Michelle Gisin while Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather was third.
Flury admitted she had enjoyed the best of the changeable conditions.
"I don't know what to say, unbelievable," she said. "Everything went well - no wind, good vision, sun."
Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts during the Spanish Primera Division match between Villarreal vs FC Barcelona at the Estadio de la Ceramica in Castellon, Spain on Dec 10, 2017. [Photo/VCG]
MADRID -- Luis Suarez and Leo Messi both scored as FC Barcelona won 2-0 away to Villarreal to maintain their 5-point lead at the top of the Liga Santander at the end of matchday 15 of the season, which was played over this weekend.
Barca once again made hard work of their win, but after Gerard Pique hit the post in a first half during which Villarreal finished stronger, their job was made a lot easier when Villarreal youngster Raba was sent off for a wild challenge on Sergio Busquets in the 60th minute.
Suarez hit the post again shortly afterwards, but the Uruguayan opened the scoring in the 72nd minute after a swift exchange of passes with Paco Alcacer.
Ter Stegen made a great save to deny Manu Trigueros as Villarreal worked bravely to get a point, but Messi sealed the win with 7 minutes left following an error from Villarreal defender Victor Ruiz.
On Saturday, Real Madrid needed just 45 minutes to secure a surprisingly easy home win against a decaffeinated Sevilla on Saturday, while Valencia had to work hard to defeat Celta Vigo 2-1.
Cristiano Ronaldo showed off the Golden Ball trophy he had been awarded during the week and celebrated with his third and fourth league goals of the season as Madrid took advantage of a Sevilla who were well below their best.
Nacho Fernandez opened the scoring following a corner after just three minutes, and after Ronaldo's two goals, further strikes from Tony Kroos and Achraf Hakimi, who netted his first goal for the club, confirmed the win.
Valencia had to work a lot harder to beat Celta, who last weekend had drawn in the Camp Nou.
Simone Zaza's 10th goal of the season with a good header from a corner put Valencia ahead midway through the first half.
Iago Aspas equalized a minute after the break and Celta controlled long periods of the play before a Pablo Hernandez foul on Nacho Gil allowed Dani Parejo to score from the penalty spot.
Atletico Madrid kept up the chase on Sunday with a typically well-organized defensive display to claim a 1-0 win away to Betis thanks to a goal from Saul Niguez on the half hour.
Atletico had just two shots all game, but their defense and one fine save from Jan Oblak to deny Cristian Tello was enough to assure all 3 points in what was a dour game.
Athletic Club Bilbao ended a good week which saw them draw with Real Madrid to reach the next phase of the Europa League with a 2-1 win away to Levante. The win came thanks to an Aritz Aduriz penalty and own-goals from Aritz Aduriz and Sergio Postigo after Aymeric Laporte had also put the ball into his own net for the home side.
Other action saw Malaga continue their recovery with a 2-0 win away to Real Sociedad after two penalties. Borja Baston scored the first and Chori Castro scored from the rebound after Baston' s second spot kick had been saved.
On Saturday, Adrian Lopez celebrated his 100th appearance for Deportivo la Coruna with the goal which gave his side a well-deserved 1-0 win at home to Leganes, while Getafe and Eibar made history as each side fielded a Japanese player (Takashi Inui ad Gaku Shibasaki), virtually the only fact of note in a dull 0-0 draw.
RIO DE JANEIRO - Ronaldinho is planning a series of testimonial matches with his former clubs before officially announcing his retirement from football.
The 37-year-old has been without a club since parting ways with Rio de Janeiro side Fluminense in September 2015.
He has since played in several exhibition matches around the world, including appearances for Barcelona's legends team.
Ronaldinho's brother and agent, Roberto de Assis, said one of the valedictory fixtures would likely be in Belo Horizonte, where he won the 2013 Copa Libertadores during a two-year spell with Atletico Mineiro.
"We are preparing his farewell. We are looking at our options, but one of the matches is sure to be there [Bole Horizonte]," Assis told Uol.
Ronaldinho's career also includes spells at Gremio, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, AC Milan, Flamengo, Queretaro and Fluminense.
Ronaldinho was twice voted FIFA World Player of the Year and was a member of Brazil's triumphant 2002 World Cup team.
YORK, England -- Ronnie O'Sullivan beat Shaun Murphy 10-5 in the final of the UK Championship to win a record-equalling sixth UK Championship title at York's Barbican Center on Sunday.
The 42-year-old, also a five-time world champion, pulled away from 5-5 to reel off the last five frames in just 60 minutes to take the 170,000 pounds top prize. During the contest he made three centuries and seven more breaks over 50.
He then leveled the record held by Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.
O'Sullivan, who won the event for the first time in 1993 when he was only 17, has won three ranking titles in an golden seven-week spell in which he has banked nearly 450,000 pounds in prize money.
He landed the English Open in October and the Shanghai Masters in November and his career tally of ranking crowns now stands at 31, just five behind another of Hendry's records. He also reached the final of the Champion of Champions last month, losing to Murphy.
O'Sullivan said, "It's just nice to win another title, though I don't even really feel excited by it, I don't get too emotionally involved now. Playing snooker keeps me out of trouble, if I wasn't playing I'd probably be going off the rails. As long as I play snooker it'll keep me reeled in.
"I look forward to the Masters because it's around the corner and it is a great event. Hopefully I can pick my game up and dominate a tournament rather than just scramble through."
Murphy said: "I thought the better man won by far. When you play Ronnie O'Sullivan in any match your game has to be the best it could possibly be. He is the greatest player we've ever seen and unfortunately today for whatever reason my game wasn't good enough.
"I thought the difference today was his safety, it had me in real trouble most of the time. I'm not the world's best tactical safety player and he exposed those weaknesses as true legends do."
PRAGUE - The Chinese women's curling team became the first to gain a place at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games through a qualification event on Saturday.
The event, staged in Pilsen, the Czech Republic, saw the former world champion beat Italy 11-4 to secure the berth.
Italy still has a chance to book a place at the Olympics when they face Denmark, who finished third overall at the end of the round-robin, in Sunday's second qualification game, winner of which joins the nine teams having already qualified.
The curling competitions of PyeongChang 2018 will have 10 teams each to compete in the men's and women's events, with seven teams earning qualification points from the 2016 and 2017 world championships, two through the qualification event in Pilsen, while South Korea qualifies automatically as the host nation.
For the first time, mixed doubles curling will be contested in the Winter Games, with eight teams to compete in a round-robin preliminary round and the top four finishers to qualify for the medal round.
In Saturday's qualification game, Italy opened the scoring when skip Diana Gaspari drew her final stone of the first end to score three points.
China, however, dominated from then on, stealing three points in the third end and then four points in the fourth end on the way to an 8-4 half-time lead.
A score of one point in the sixth end and further Chinese single point steals in the seventh and eighth ends were enough to persuade Italy to concede after eight ends with the final score at 11-4.
For China's skip Wang Bingyu and third Zhou Yan, this will be a third Olympic appearance, having previously played in Vancouver (2010), where they took the bronze medals, and Sochi (2014).
"It feels so great. This is the third time at the Games. It wasn't easy for me or the team, but we tried our best and we're going there. We're so happy!" said Wang after the game.
"I think everyone was a little nervous, and we made some mistakes, but we didn't lose ourselves, we just kept calm and played one rock at a time. This is a big thing for me and the team. I think everyone at home will be proud of us," she added.
Earlier, in a dramatic final men's round-robin session, Denmark beat Italy 8-3 to consolidate their position as first-placed play-off qualifiers. Italy and hosts Czech Republic also qualified for the men's play-offs.
LOS ANGELES - Russia's Denis Yuskov broke the men's 1,500m world record en route to winning the event's title at the World Cup speed skating in Salt Lake City, the United States on Saturday.]
Denis Yuskov of Russia reacts to his World Record time in the men's 1500-meter race at Utah Olympic Oval. [Photo/Agencies]
The three-time world champion, 28, clocked one minute, 41.02 seconds at the Utah Olympic Oval to upgrade the previous mark of 1:41.04 set by himself at the same track eight years ago.
Dutch skater Koen Verweij was the second with a time of 1:41.63, while his countryman Thomas Krol sat on the lower podium in 1:42.63.
On the same day, Japanese Miho Takagi and Nao Kodaira extended their winning streaks in the women's 1,500m and the 500m respectively, and Ruslan Murashov of Russia won the men's 500m with a second fastest time in the world.
Francesca Lollobrigida of Italy won the women's mass start event, while China's Guo Dan took the silver, and the men's mass start gold medal went to South Korea's Lee Seung-Hoon.
LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers defeated Hornets 110-99 in Charlotte of North Carolina Saturday night, winning their second straight game of road trip to the eastern coast.
Leading by bench players Joradan Clarkson and Julius Randle, the Lakers outscored their hosts in the fourth quarter with a 26-8 run. Clarkson scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in that final period with 9 minutes left.
The Hornets' 32-year-old center Dwight Howard, who's once a Laker, was selected by the young Lakers as the attacking point, and Lakers player Kyle Kuzma said after the game that the idea was to "make him move his feet."
Lakers' so called "future star" Lonzo Ball took only 5 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists.
Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' former all star player, shared his opinions on Lonzo Ball in an interview with Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles before the match, saying "he needs to get better now."
"Kuzma, better now. Randle, better now. Players, you want that now," Kobe said.
"We never thought, 'OK, we're going to win four years from now' ... in the process of having that impatience, you develop. If you're just patiently going about it, you'll never get there. For players, it's kind of patient impatience," he added.
Lakers won over Philadelphia 76ers Thursday, and their next stop is New York on Tuesday.
BUENOS AIRES - River Plate secured their second consecutive Copa Argentina title by defeating Atletico Tucuman 2-1 in the final here on Saturday.
River forward Ignacio Scocco opened the scoring in the 10th minute before Luis Rodriguez equalized just two minutes later.
Midfielder Ignacio Fernandez struck with an angled drive three minutes after halftime and the Buenos Aires outfit defended resolutely thereafter.
"We haven't been playing well over the last month and a half but we were able to pull through to win a title which is important for this club," midfielder Enzo Perez said.
By winning the competition, River earned the right to play in next year's Copa Libertadores, South America's premier club competition.
SANTIAGO - Colo-Colo secured their 32nd Chilean first division title by defeating Huachipato 3-0 away from home in their last match of the season on Saturday.
It's not until the 73rd minute for the Santiago club to take the lead at the Ester Roa stadium in the southern city of Concepcion when Jaime Valdez converted a spot-kick.
The goal opened the floodgates and Uruguayan striker Octavio Rivero doubled the visitors' lead before forward Nicolas Orellana blasted a shot past Bolivian goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.
With the victory, Colo-Colo finished two points above rivals Union Espanol at the competition standings.
Universidad Chile were third, a point further back.
SANTA ROSA CITY - Renuka Suksukont captured her first international title on Saturday when the Thai completed a wire-to-wire victory at the ICTSI Philippine Ladies Masters in Laguna province.
The 22-year-old closed with a round of even-par 72 to finish on five-under 211 for a two stroke win. The victory at $80,000 event, co-sanctioned by the China LPGA Tour, Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and TLPGA, was worth $15,000.
"Finally, I got a championship outside of Thailand and my first CLPGA win," said Renuka. "It's amazing, it happens so fast. I am very happy now."
Ploychompoo Wirairungrueng (67) and Chonlada Chayanun (70) made it a Thai sweep in finishing equal runner-up, while South Korean amateur Hwang Min-jeong was fourth at four strokes back after closing with a 71 at The Country Club south-west of Manila.
Starting the day with a four stroke lead, Renuka closed with an adventurous round that featured six birdies, including one at the last, three bogeys and a triple-bogey seven at the 386-yard ninth hole.
"My driver was good today, the putts are okay," said the Pathum Thani native, winner of the Singha-Sat Toyota Championship on the Thai domestic tour in June.
"On the triple bogey, I hit it three times at the same place beside the green. I chipped short and the ball comes back. I chipped it again and it comes back. I chip another time and miss the putt. I didn't think anything. If the tournament is mine I can make birdie, if it's not mine, whatever."
Chonlada, who turned pro last year after graduating from Iowa State University, put herself in contention with a birdie at the 13th hole to get to five-under. She then stumbled to consecutive bogeys starting at the 15th hole.
"My aim this week was top five or top three because the course is hard and the greens are fast. But today I made it. I am happy now," said the 25-year-old Nakhon Ratchasima native.
Zhang Jienalin finished the top Chinese mainland player in equal sixth as the Henan native closed with even-par 72, six shots off the pace.
"In general, I reached my own expectations but I could have been better," said the 21-year-old.
"Today there was some mistakes I should have avoided at holes eight and 10. I shot in the water at hole eight and almost in the water at hole 14. Today my irons were good, the four birdies were short-distance putts."
The Country Club is a 6,303-yard, par-72 layout designed by Tom Weiskopf.
ICTSI Philippine Ladies Masters third round leading scores (China unless stated, *denotes amateur)
211 - Renuka Suksukont (Thailand) 69-70-72
213 - Ploychompoo Wirairungrueng (Thailand) 71-75-67, Chonlada Chayanun (Thailand) 75-68-70215 - Hwang Min-jeong* (South Korea) 71-73-71
216 - Thanuttra Boonraksasat (Thailand) 77-69-70
217 - Yuka Saso* (Philippines) 71-77-69, Hsieh Yu-ling (Chinese Taipei) 72-73-72, Zhang Jienalin 76-69-72
218 - Lee Chia-pei (Chinese Taipei) 73-73-72, Wu Yi-ching (Chinese Taipei) 71-73-74, Wanchana Poruangrong (Thailand) 73-70-75
219 - Li Xiya 76-71-72, Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang (Thailand) 74-72-73, Hung Jo-hua* (Chinese Taipei) 71-73-75, Chihiro Ikeda (Philippines) 73-70-76
220 - Princess Mary Superal (Philippines) 74-77-69
221 - Kusuma Meechai (Thailand) 75-78-68, Na Hee-won (South Korea) 72-77-72, Du Mohan* 72-75-74, Liu Yan 72-72
MADRID - Real Madrid enjoyed a surprisingly easy win at home on Saturday, beating Sevilla 5-0 in their last game of La Liga before flying out to the World Club Championships.
The game between the 4th and 5th ranked sides had been expected to be a close affair, but it never was after the third minute when Nacho Fernandez put Real Madrid ahead from close range following a corner.
Cristiano Ronaldo, having paraded his five Balon d'Or in the Bernabeu before the game, doubled Madrid's lead converting in a Marco Asensio pass after 23 minutes and added a third soon afterwards from the penalty spot after Jesus Navas had committed handball.
The fourth goal came in the 37th minute when Tony Kroos was given time and space to score with a low shot and the fifth goal of a great first 45 minutes for Madrid and a disastrous first half for Sevilla, came in the 43rd minute when young full back Achraf Hakimi scored his first goal for the club after being set up by Karim Benzema.
Real Madrid were without Sergio Ramos, Casemiro, Dani Carvajal and Rafael Varane, and Sevilla were expected to cause them problems in defense, but Sevilla, who reached the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday, produced an indolent display.
Sevilla haven't won in the Bernabeu since the 2008-2009 season.
With the game over as a contest, both sides took their feet off the gas and as the half progressed Zinedine Zidane gave an opportunity to Marcos Llorente and Dani Ceballos, giving a well-deserved rest to Kroos and Luka Modric.
NAIROBI - Athletics Kenya officials on Saturday protested against the cabinet secretary for sports over what they said was the minister's attempt to take over the running of athletics in the country.
Athletics Kenya (AK) Senior Vice-President in Charge of Competitions, Paul Mutwii, took issue with the minister's recent act of single-handedly selecting a team to represent Kenya at an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Gold Label status marathon in South Africa without input from the association.
"Entering athletes to any international and foreign-organized events anywhere in the world is the sole duty and business of Athletics Kenya," Mutwii reiterated.
"The association can also enter athletes in foreign competitions through managers who are officially approved by AK as agents to act on behalf of the organization," he added.
In September, Wario flagged off a team of five runners to participate at the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon without involving Athletics Kenya as should be the norm.
He promised the runners cash awards of 10,000 U.S. dollars, 5,000 dollars and 2,500 dollars respectively for podium finishes.
However, Ethiopian runners won the men's and women's races with the highest placed Kenyan, Agnes Kiprop coming third in a time of 2:31.00.
Mutwii questioned who would have been answerable in case misfortune befell any or all of the runners.
"An athlete can fall into problems outside the country like getting sick, getting arrested or being attacked and as the party that sent them out, we become liable," he said.
"The images of Recho Kosgei struggling after she collapsed and almost died during this year's Warsaw Marathon are still fresh in people's mind and so that of the Ethiopian athlete who was shot dead during this year's Paris Marathon" Mutwii said.
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's Gremio have signed Peru under-18 captain Marco Saravia on a 12-month loan as they bolster their squad for the 2019 season.
The center-back joins the Porto Alegre outfit from Peruvian first division side Deportivo Municipal, officials from both clubs said on Saturday.
"Deportivo Municipal wishes the defender, Marco Saravia, all the best in this new phase with Gremio," the Lima club said on Twitter.
Saravia, 17, was promoted from Deportivo's youth academy earlier this year and made two appearances for the first team in Peru's Primera Division in 2017.
Gremio are currently competing in the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, having qualified for the tournament by defeating Argentina's Lanus in the final of the Copa Libertadores last month.
YORK, Britain - Five-time titlist Ronnie O'Sullivan reached the final of the UK Snooker Championship afte beating Stephen Maguire 6-4 in the semifinals at York on Saturday.
O'Sullivan, also a five-time world champion, will meet Shaun Murphy in Sunday's final over 19 frames. Murphy, the 2008 winner, defeated Ryan Day 6-3 in the day's other semifinal clash.
World number four O'Sullivan saw a 4-0 lead over Maguire reduced to just one frame at 5-4, but he secured victory in the 10th frame to reach his seventh UK final. He has won five of his previous six, against his only defeat last year in York to Mark Selby.
O'Sullivan, 42, is also aiming to win his 31st career ranking title and third within seven weeks, having captured the English Open trophy in October and the Shanghai Masters in November. He is into his fifth final of the season, having finished runner-up at the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions.
"Stephen is a quality player and I expected some kind of resistance," said O'Sullivan. "I just tried to keep my patience and wait for the chance to pounce. I've got lucky that other players have struggled against me this week. I suppose to get to the final having not played my best is not a bad thing."
The two Englishmen met last month when Murphy beat O'Sullivan at the Champion of Champions event.
Yu Dabao of China celebrates during the men's football match between South Korea and China at the EAFF E-1 football championship in Tokyo, Japan, Dec 9, 2017. The match ended 2-2. [Photo/Xinhua]
Yu Dabao of China celebrates during the men's football match between South Korea and China at the EAFF E-1 football championship in Tokyo, Japan, Dec 9, 2017. The match ended 2-2. [Photo/Xinhua]
Wei Shihao (C) of China reacts during the men's football match between South Korea and China at the EAFF E-1 football championship in Tokyo, Japan, Dec 9, 2017. The match ended 2-2. [Photo/Xinhua]
Marcello Lippi, head coach of China, reacts during the men's football match between South Korea and China at the EAFF E-1 football championship in Tokyo, Japan, Dec 9, 2017. The match ended 2-2. [Photo/Xinhua]
TOKYO -- China held South Korea to a 2-2 draw in the 2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship on Saturday:
China - 2 (20-Wei Shihao, 9'; 22-Yu Dabao, 76' )
South Korea - 2 (9-Kim Shinwook, 12'; 17-Lee Jaesung, 19')
Peru national football captain Paolo Guerrero will appeal against a 12-month doping ban in a bid to play in next year's World Cup, his legal team said on Friday.
Guerrero, Peru's all-time leading goalscorer, was earlier suspended by FIFA's disciplinary committee after being found guilty of cocaine use.
"We are extremely surprised and disappointed given that it was recognized he did not use cocaine," his lawyer Pedro Fida told Peruvian news service America Noticias.
"We will appeal until the last resort in search of justice and in the name of fair play and fair sport," he added.
Guerrero, who plays his club football for Brazil's Flamengo, tested positive to the stimulant after Peru's World Cup qualifier against Argentina in Buenos Aires on October 5.
The 33-year-old was given a provisional ban on November 4, forcing him out of Peru's World Cup qualifying playoff games against New Zealand.
In presenting Guerrero's defence, lawyers claimed that the metabolite in the former Bayern Munich player's sample came from coca tea.
Guerrero has 10 days to file an appeal with FIFA and could also take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Peru qualified for their first World Cup since 1982 by defeating New Zealand 2-0 on aggregate over two legs in their intercontinental playoff last month.
Guerrero has been capped 85 times for Peru's national team and scored 32 goals.
Former Bayer Leverkusen and Roma center back Juan has signed a new one-year contract with Brazilian club Flamengo, extending his professional career to the 23rd season.
"Everybody knows that I have always dreamed of finishing my career at the club where I took my first steps as a footballer and a man," he said on Instagram.
"I will continue to play as long as I feel that I can help Flamengo to win titles. I believe that I'm still able to play at a high level."
Juan, who will turn 39 in February, began his career at Flamengo in 1996 before signing with Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 and then Roma in 2007.
He joined Brazil's Internacional in 2012 and returned to Flamengo in 2015.
The defender was capped 79 times for Brazil's national team and played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.