Weekend in sport: England finally beats Croatia; All Blacks brought down to earth; Djokovic stunned at ATP Finals

Posted at 6:58 PM, Nov 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-20 00:52:04-05

England beats Croatia to secure Nations League finals place… All Blacks lose to Ireland in Dublin… Zverev downs Djokovic in ATP Finals… Condi Rice NFL coaching rumors quashed… Opponents blame each other for darts match stink. This is your Monday sporting recap.

Grudge settled

Losing World Cup semifinalist England took some measure of revenge against Croatia with a 2-1 win against the team that dumped it out of this year’s tournament in Russia, thanks to a 85th-minute Harry Kane goal. The win secures the Three Lions a place at the inaugural UEFA Nations League finals, a four-team mini-tournament to be held in Portugal this coming June.

An Andrej Kramaric strike just before the hour looked like leading to an ominous repeat of that fateful match at the Luzhniki Stadium last July, but a Jesse Lingard strike 12 minutes from time brought English heads up again before Kane capped the win, sending Croatia down to the second tier of the league next season.

Elsewhere in the weekend’s action, Switzerland also secured a place at the Nations League finals with a 5-2 drubbing of Belgium and Scotland kept playoff hopes alive with a welcome 4-0 win away to Albania, while on Friday World Cup champion France lost to the Netherlands 2-0.

The draw for the Nations League Finals will be held on December 3.

They’re human after all

The mighty All Blacks took on Ireland in Dublin Saturday as part of their European tour, and in a rare turn of events, walked off the field dazed after suffering a 16-9 loss against the home side.

It might’ve taken the world’s second-ranked international side to break down the perennial champions New Zealand but in the run-up to next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan the Irish — winning their first-ever match on home soil against the All Blacks — showed that they have the potential to go the distance in the world’s pre-eminent rugby competition.

Even All Blacks coach Steve Hansen seemed to agree, saying that “as of now (Ireland) are the number one team in the world. If you want to make them World Cup favorites, go ahead.”

The two sides exchanged penalties in an evenly matched first half, sending Ireland to the dressing room with a narrow 9-6 lead before Jacob Stockdale’s phenomenal 48-minute chip-and-chase try set Irish eyes smiling. The Kiwis could only muster a further three points before the final whistle in a brutal slugfest that left everyone on the field — and those watching — drained.

Zverev puts brakes on Djokovic’s stellar year

In men’s tennis, 2018 has undoubtedly been the Year of Novak. But that didn’t matter to Alexander Zverev, who stunned the World Number 1, 6-4 6-3, at the ATP Finals in London.

The 6-ft-6, 21-year-old played out of his skin to become the youngest winner of the year-end championships since Djokovic himself in 2008, spoiling what had been a stellar year for the Serb, who had won 35 of his past 37 matches, including titles at Wimbledon and the US Open to lift his tally of majors to 14 in a remarkable comeback campaign.

Despite Djokovic cruising to the final — he hadn’t even dropped serve en route to Sunday’s match — the young German had other plans after dumping out six-time winner Roger Federer earlier.

“Obviously it’s quite astonishing, winning this title, beating two such players back-to-back, Roger and Novak, in the semifinals and finals,” Zverev told reporters. “Means so much. I’m incredibly happy and incredibly proud of this moment right now.”

Rice: ‘Not ready’ to coach NFL but ‘would like to call a play or two’

When Cleveland Browns GM John Dorsey said that he’d consider all types of candidates without regard to age, gender or experience to replace outgoing head coach Hue Jackson, he probably wasn’t thinking this far out the box.

But following reports linking Condoleezza Rice to the job, Dorsey has issued a statement saying that the former Secretary of State wasn’t in the running.

“(Rice) is a great leader, possesses the highest possible character and also happens to be a Browns fan,” Dorsey said in a statement. “Our coaching search will be thorough and deliberate, but we are still in the process of composing the list of candidates and Secretary Rice has not been discussed.”

Rice, a huge fan of both the sport and the Browns, also played down the reports. In a Facebook post, she said that she was sure the team would “hire an experienced coach,” and called on the sport to consider more women “as position coaches and eventually coordinators and head coaches.

“I’m not ready to coach but I would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas! And at no time will I call for a ‘prevent defense.'”

‘Rotten eggs’ smell causes darts stink

Two darts players have accused each other of flatulent gamesmanship at the Grand Slam of Darts, with Scotland’s Gary Anderson and Dutchman Wesley Harms each pointing the finger at the other for causing a stink at the oche.

Anderson won the match 10-2, but his opponent said after the match that he’d played poorly because of the “fragrant smell” left by his opponent — adding that it would take him “two nights” to clear the odor from his nose, according to the Guardian.

He added that Anderson was “1010% wrong” for blaming him and that his honor would prevent him from clouding the truth. “I had a bad stomach once on stage before and admitted it,” he said. “So I’m not going to lie about farting on stage.”

The Scot said that he had detected a “waft of rotten eggs” every time he passed Harms’ side table, and that he “must have needed to get some wind out. If somebody has done that they need to see a doctor. Seemingly he says it was me but I would admit it.”