Valencia axe Kempes for critical remarks
BARCELONA • •Valencia great Mario Kempes has been sacked from his role as a club ambassador for fiercely criticising the team after their 4-0 thrashing at home by Eibar, he said yesterday.
The former Argentina forward, a Valencia ambassador since 2013, has been an outspoken figure as the team have floundered this season.
After Saturday's defeat, which left Valencia six points above the relegation zone, he said on Twitter: "Lamentably this is a team that is utterly lost. There's no style of play, no leadership and very little enthusiasm."
Hours later, he announced that his role with the club had been terminated.
Barca win 3-0, Messi is set-piece king
BARCELONA • •Spanish champions Barcelona coasted to a 3-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, as Lionel Messi became the club's top scorer from free kicks.
Paco Alcacer scored his first La Liga goal since joining from Valencia last year while Messi whipped in an angled strike in the 40th minute, his 27th goal from a free kick for Barca. Aleix Vidal rounded off the scoring in the 67th minute.
Traore nets, Ghana empty-handed again
PORT GENTIL (Gabon)• • Alain Traore hammered home an 89th-minute free kick to ensure third place for Burkina Faso at the Africa Cup of Nations, as they beat Ghana 1-0 on Saturday.
Ghana were playing in the bronze-medal football match for the third time in the last four editions but have lost each one.
Little-known Aussie cyclist wins race
MELBOURNE • Australian Damien Howson, 24, upstaged international stars Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves yesterday, winning the overall Herald Sun Tour ahead of countryman Jai Hindley.
Briton Ian Stannard of Team Sky crossed the line first on the 121km fourth and final stage in Kinglake in Victoria, just ahead of New Zealander Aaron Gate (Aqua Blue Sport).
Cielo back in bid for 4th 50m world crown
RIO DE JANEIRO • Olympic champion Cesar Cielo will return to competitive swimming as he targets a fourth 50m freestyle world title, his coach Alberto Silva said on Saturday.
Cielo, 30, who won gold in the 50m freestyle at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, announced an indefinite break from competition after failing to qualify for last year's Rio Games.
Hughes upset over no Pulis handshake
LONDON • Stoke boss Mark Hughes believes West Bromwich counterpart Tony Pulis showed him a lack of respect by failing to offer a handshake following the Baggies' 1-0 Premier League win on Saturday.
Ties between the managers soured after it was revealed that striker Saido Berahino, whom Stoke bought from West Brom last month, had served an eight-week ban for testing positive for a recreational drug.