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Russia awarded 3-0 win after crowd trouble in Montenegro

“The CEDB has decided to declare the above-mentioned match as forfeited,” UEFA said in a statement on its website.

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“As a consequence, the Football Association of Montenegro (FSCG) is deemed to have lost the game 3-0.”

Montenegro have also been ordered to play their next two home matches behind closed doors and were fined 50,000 euros (36,285 pounds).

“All things considered, the UEFA decision is what we expected and we will not appeal it,” Montenegrin Football Association general secretary Momir Djurdjevac was quoted as saying by daily Vijesti.

“In the upcoming period, our priority is to reinstate a good atmosphere on the terraces so that the national team can enjoy the home support they deserve from the true fans.

“The game against Austria will be a real test of our ability to do that, as will all the following home matches in (2018 World Cup) qualifying.”  

Russia were fined 25,000 euros for the “improper conduct of (their) supporters”.

The game was first delayed by 33 minutes when Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was hit on the head by a flare thrown from the Montenegro section of the ground soon after kickoff.

He had to come off and was taken to hospital suffering from burns.

Midway through the second half a scuffle ensued between players near the touchline and Russia midfielder Dmitri Kombarov was hit by a missile, prompting the referee to abandon the game.

“The punishment handed down to Montenegro is down to the letter of the law,” Vyacheslav Koloskov, honorary president of the Russian Football Union, told the TASS news agency.

“This is exactly how I thought things would pan out. The most important thing is the technical defeat has been awarded. Our side can be happy.”

Koloskov also confirmed that Russia would not appeal against the fine they were handed.

“During the current climate, 25,000 euros is a significant amount for the Russian Football Union,” he said.

“On the other hand, it is a minimal fine. I don’t think anyone from our side will launch a protest.”

A 3-0 victory for Russia kept them third in Group G on eight points, five behind leaders Austria. Montenegro stayed fourth on five points.

(Reporting by Ed Osmond in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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Scott sacrifices baby time for Masters build-up

That sacrifice should reap dividends with a strong performance at Augusta National this week, according to his instructor Brad Malone.

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“Adam’s preparation has been excellent and everything looks good, as far as a coach goes,” Malone told Reuters on the eve of the tournament on Wednesday as he walked a practice round with the 2013 champion.

“He’s so comfortable with the golf course and his rhythm is looking nice. Now it’s just a matter of letting it flow.”

Scott’s wife Marie gave birth to daughter Bo on Feb. 15 and the family was reunited only last week when mother and baby finally arrived at their Bahamas home after staying in Australia to complete their immunization requirements.

Scott, meanwhile, played three tournaments on the PGA Tour where he experimented with a regular-length putter. After missing several short putts, he had little hesitation in reverting to the long 48-inch broomstick putter which he used to win at Augusta National two years ago.

“It (the short putter) had to perform incredibly well for him to continue using it while the long putter is still legal,” Malone said, referring to the ban on anchoring a long putter against a player’s chest that starts next year.

“It was a common sense decision. A lot of things he liked with the short putter but now is not the time to play around. There is no point disadvantaging yourself.

“Last year he was number one on tour putting from three feet and third outside 25 feet. That’s a pretty good combination.”

Scott, 34, does not have the distraction of returning to Augusta this year as defending champion, though Malone says that was not a problem last year, when the Australian tied for 14th.

“Adam is very good at focusing on the task, whatever that may be. He’s got a good level of concentration.

“The only difference between this year and last is that this year he didn’t have to prepare the menu for the champions dinner.”

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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Rory and Tiger command the Masters spotlight

Northern Irish world number one McIlroy is gunning for his third consecutive victory in a major, and a first green jacket at the spiritual home of the American game, to complete a full set of all four of golf’s blue riband events.

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Four-times champion Woods, meanwhile, only decided last week to compete at Augusta National after struggling badly in his two tournament starts this season, but has looked a very different and relaxed player during practise over the past three days.

“Everyone is just curious to see how he comes back,” McIlroy said earlier this week about Woods’ return to competition after a two-month absence from the PGA Tour while retooling his swing.

“I don’t think you should ever underestimate him. He’s done things on the golf course that are pretty special. As a golf fan in general, I’m interested to see how he does.”

Woods posted the highest score of his professional career, an 11-over 82, to miss the cut at the Phoenix Open in January, and withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open the following week after 11 holes because of tightness in his back.

The former world number one, who claimed the most recent of his 14 major titles at the 2008 U.S. Open, said he would not return to competition until his game was “tournament-ready” and many pundits believe he is suffering from the chipping ‘yips’.

However, last Friday he finally announced his decision to play in this week’s Masters.

“I feel like my game is finally ready to compete at this level, the highest level,” said Woods, who won the most recent of his four green jackets at Augusta National 10 years ago.

“There’s no other tournament in the world like this, and to come back to a place that I’ve had so many great memories at and so many great times in my life, it’s always special.”

GRAND SLAM BID

McIlroy, who tied for eighth at last year’s Masters, arrives at Augusta National looking to become the seventh career grand slam winner following Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen.

“I’ve got a chance to do something very few players in this game have done before so that adds a little bit of spice to it,” said the 25-year-old, who won the 2011 U.S. Open, the PGA Championship (in 2012 and 2014) and the British Open (2014).

Though McIlroy is the pre-tournament favourite, the possibilities are seemingly endless when it comes to likely winners after Sunday’s final round.

The last eight editions have produced seven different champions, with reigning champion Bubba Watson the only ‘repeat’ winner after earning his first green jacket in 2012.

“To win it three times would be remarkable,” the American left-hander said of his bid to join the likes of Sam Snead, Gary Player and Phil Mickelson by becoming the sixth triple champion at Augusta.

“I never thought I would win it twice, so I can’t believe that we are talking about it … three times. Pretty wild and pretty crazy stuff.”

Other contenders include Australia’s Adam Scott, the 2013 champion who has reverted to his long putter to cope with Augusta’s notoriously tricky greens, and Americans Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker, who have been in red-hot form in recent weeks.

Swedish world number two Henrik Stenson heads the European challenge with players from that continent bidding this week to end a 15-year title drought at the Masters.

“There’s a lot of guys who would rightly be in the real conversation — Rory, Dustin (Johnson), Jordan, Adam, Jason (Day) and Phil (Mickelson),’ said Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion.

“Bubba is always one of the clear favourites here. And if Tiger plays like he can, he’s going to be one of the favourites. That adds intrigue to the story, too. This has to be one of the best build-ups to any tournament ever.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Downton leaves role as ECB managing director

Former England wicketkeeper Downton, 58, took over the role in February, 2014 following the team’s 5-0 defeat in the Ashes series in Australia.

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Downton oversaw the decision to sack controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen and his departure will lead to increased speculation that the gifted right-hander could be recalled to the England side.

He also made the decision to fire Alastair Cook as one-day captain in December and the team endured a dismal World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this year, failing to get through the group stage.

“The England Cricket Department needs to deliver performance at the highest level and our structure needs to be accountable for reaching the standards we aspire to,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said in a statement.

A new leadership position focussed on performance will be created.

“The new role we are putting in place will deliver an environment where world-class performance is at the heart of everything we do,” Harrison said before paying tribute to Downton’s achievements.

“Paul is a man of great integrity who has worked extremely hard to make a difference at the ECB,” Harrison added.

“He joined at a very difficult time, but under his leadership the test team have made significant strides. We thank him for his hard work, drive and determination and wish him every success for the future.”

Downton also appointed Peter Moores as England coach and he is under pressure following the poor World Cup as the team prepare for the first of three tests against West Indies starting in Antigua on Monday before home series against New Zealand and Australia.

(Reporting by Ed Osmond, editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters feels growing Payne as Augusta looks to future

But in recent years, the club that did not admit its first woman member until 2012 has displayed progressive vision and long-range planning as it focuses its considerable resources and efforts on growing the game around the world and expanding the club’s boundaries at home.

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Augusta National has helped develop and promote the Asia-Pacific and Latin America Amateur Championships, with the winners earning a spot in the year’s first major.

A Drive, Chip and Putt competition designed to bring more children into the sport was staged at Augusta last weekend and the winners received their trophies from past Masters champions, while the club has earmarked a reported $40 million (27 million pounds) to purchase nearly 100 homes as part of elaborate expansion plans.

“We have been working very hard, trying to do our best to positively address the mandate of continuous improvement established by beloved cofounders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts,” Augusta chairman Billy Payne told reporters during his annual press conference on Wednesday.

“Doing the best we can do, now includes a growing emphasis on our efforts to help others grow the game.”

Payne, who oversaw the running of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, took over from Hootie Johnson as club chairman in 2006.

He has shepherded Augusta National into a new era, welcoming Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as the first women members, as well as developing a social media and digital media presence, while also expanding the Masters global television coverage.

Built on tradition, Augusta and its members have on occasion still found it difficult to let go of the past.

When the iconic Eisenhower Tree, which guarded the 17th fairway, was felled by an ice storm last year the club went into mourning.

But the Eisenhower Tree, named after the U.S. president who was an Augusta member and, legend has it, routinely hit his ball into the tree, will live on, as Payne proudly noted on Wednesday when he said the stately pine has been successfully cloned.

“As we try hard to contribute to the future health of the game, so, too, must we appropriately remember the past,” said Payne. “I am pleased to announce that we have been successful, so far, in preserving this famous tree’s genetics.

“What you now see are three surviving, and so far thriving results, of two successful grafts and one seedling of the Eisenhower Tree.

“Not surprisingly they have become some of our most loved and cherished possessions here.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)