Coutinho debuts as Barca reach semis
BARCELONA • Lionel Messi scored what proved to be the winner as Barcelona beat Espanyol 2-0 to reach the Spanish King's Cup semi-finals on Thursday in a game that saw Philippe Coutinho make his debut.
Luis Suarez scored an early opener in the quarter-final second leg before Messi's deflected effort gave Barcelona a 2-1 aggregate advantage as the holders overturned a 1-0 deficit from last week's first leg.
Substitute Coutinho, who signed for Barca for £142 million (S$263.6 million) from Liverpool earlier this month, was introduced midway through the second half in place of Andres Iniesta, entering the Nou Camp pitch to a huge roar from the home crowd.
Donaldson holds Dubai clubhouse lead
DUBAI • Jamie Donaldson, the first-round leader at the Dubai Desert Classic, followed up his 10-under 62 performance on Thursday with a 69 at Emirates Golf Club yesterday.
At press time, the Welshman held the clubhouse lead with a 13-under 131 total, with China's Li Haotong (66) a shot behind.
Henderson leads by one in the Bahamas
NASSAU (Bahamas) • Canadian Brooke Henderson had four birdies in a seven-hole stretch to charge one clear atop the leaderboard at the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic before first-round play was halted due to darkness with 12 players still on course.
She carded a bogey-free five-under 68 on Thursday, with LPGA rookie Luna Sobron Galmes of Spain and Australian Sarah Jane Smith lurking one shot behind.
Centre-back Laporte on verge of City move
LONDON • Aymeric Laporte has decided to leave Athletic Bilbao for Manchester City in an effort to force his way into France's World Cup squad.
City are confident of completing a £56.7 million (S$105.3 million) deal for the the 23-year-old centre-back, who is yet to play for France, before the transfer window closes on Wednesday.
THE TIMES, LONDON
Sprinter Roberts cleared of doping
NEW YORK • After American sprinter Gil Roberts tested positive for probenecid, he mounted one of the more novel defences in the history of sports doping.
The 28-year-old, part of the 4x400m relay team that won gold at the 2016 Olympics, said that he had kissed his girlfriend Alex Salazar passionately, and that her sinus medication had entered his body. On Thursday, an appeals court sided with the defence and he was exonerated.
NBA stars Lin and Williams to visit China
NEW YORK • Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin and former Miami Heat star Jason Williams will meet National Basketball Association (NBA) fans from China as part of the league's record-setting Chinese New Year celebration.
A record 12 NBA clubs will host in-arena celebrations while a record 93 NBA games will be telecast in the China region as part of the league's seventh consecutive holiday celebration, running from Feb 2-March 3.