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Chelsea beating Barcelona at the Nou Camp, with ten men

Written By Games Lover on Friday, April 27, 2012 | 11:53 PM

Lionel Messi missed a penalty as holders Barcelona were sent crashing out of the Champions League semi-finals after 10-man Chelsea battled to a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Chelsea, leading 1-0 from the first leg, snatched a 3-2 aggregate win on a night of extraordinary drama which saw the Premier League side recover from 2-0 down and the dismissal of captain John Terry to reach next month's Munich final.

Barcelona looked to be cruising to victory after goals from Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta put them 2-0 up in the first half either side of Terry's red card for a foul on Alexis Sanchez.

But a superb counter-attack and chip from Ramires put Chelsea ahead on away goals, and in the dying seconds substitute Fernando Torres completed an unlikely fightback to kill off an unforgettable contest.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo hailed his side's "incredible achievement" in reaching the final, where his side will face either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.

"A lot of people had written us off and we showed again what kind of character these players have," Di Matteo said. "We didn't expect to play with 10 men and we knew it was going to be tough. It was even more difficult than we expected.

"They're a great team, with some fantastic players. We just showed what we're made of." Disappointed Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola attempted to strike a philosophical note after a traumatic exit.

"The first thing I feel is huge sadness," Guardiola said. "I think we played exceptionally well. We have done everything we possibly could to reach the final. Finals are great but we'll have to watch this one on TV. "We have played well recently but it wasn't enough. Sometimes football is like this. This year it was not our turn. This year it seems like we could couldn't win."

An extraordinary first half had seen Chelsea manage to frustrate Barcelona in the face of remorseless pressure despite the setback of losing Gary Cahill to injury after only 12 minutes. Cahill was replaced by Jose Bosingwa, with Branislav Ivanovic moving to centre-back.

Despite the defensive reshuffle Chelsea's thin blue line held firm, with Petr Cech saving brilliantly with his leg from Messi on 19 minutes before Terry slid in desperately to block Iniesta's follow-up.

At the other end Chelsea were limited to pumping long clearances for Didier Drogba, who, just as he had done at Stamford Bridge a week earlier, was forced to plough a lonely furrow up front.

It was only to be a matter of time before Barcelona's monopoly of possession yielded its reward and the breakthrough came on 35 minutes, the start of a catastrophic period for Chelsea.

A headed Drogba clearance fell only as far as Dani Alves on the edge of the area who picked out Isaac Cuenca on the left, who in turn rolled his pass across the six-yard box for an unmarked Busquets to sidefoot home.

It got worse for Chelsea a minute later with Terry's dismissal, which left the English side with neither of their starting centre-backs. It was not long before the makeshift nature of Chelsea's defence was exposed and Barcelona struck what looked to be the killer blow on 43 minutes.

Careless play from Raul Meireles saw Messi dart forward and feed Iniesta, who sprang Chelsea's defence and prodded past Cech for 2-0. Camp Nou rocked with delight but incredibly, within minutes, Chelsea were back in the game and ahead on away goals AS Ramires scored.

Lampard's magnificent pass sent the Brazilian racing in behind the Barcelona back four and when Victor Valdes advanced the rangy midfielder clipped an exquisite chip into the net to make it 2-1 on the stroke of half-time.

The Catalans were swiftly back into their stride in the second half, however, and when Drogba brought down Cesc Fabregas to concede a penalty the match again seem to have swung in Barcelona's favour. Yet Messi, the most prolific scorer in Europe this season with 63 goals, implausibly crashed his spot-kick against the bar and Chelsea were let off.

But the pattern of the game had been set, and what followed was 40 minutes of excruciating tension as Barcelona took up permanent residence on the edge of Chelsea's penalty area. Chelsea, however, somehow managed to thwart their tormentors, closing down relentlessly and never allowing Messi, Xavi and Iniesta the freedom to work the ball into dangerous positions.

All too often Barcelona's artful probing led to nothing as they cut the ball back from wide positions where Chelsea's wall of bodies stood firm. Sanchez had a goal disallowed before Cech tipped a shot from Messi onto the post in a frantic finale.

Then with Barcelona caught pressing upfield, Torres darted clear of the home side's defence and touched round Valdes to score and Chelsea were through. The win came at a cost, however, with Ramires, Ivanovic and Meireles all picking up bookings that will keep them out of the final.


The better side does not always win

The Spanish striker scored the Blues' second goal of the night as Roberto Di Matteo's side held Barca to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou to progress to the tournament decider following a 1-0 victory in the first leg in London.

Prior to the match, Torres had warned Barcelona that upsets can happen, and the Spaniard believes that Tuesday's contest is an example of that.

"Football is just like this," he told reporters. "The better side does not always win.

"We knew this is what we had to do against Barca, although this is not the prettiest thing to do.

"We used our weapons and it turned out great for us in both matches. Barca had their chances, but they did not take them and we found a lifeline with Ramires' goal.

"We have great respect for Barca because we know they are the strongest side in the world."

Torres then lamented the fact that Chelsea will be without suspended Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles, Ramires and John Terry for the final and stated he has no preference in meeting either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the tournament decider.

"We are qualified for two finals [FA Cup and Champions League] and we will continue to fight for fourth place in the Premier League," he said.

"These last weeks could turn a bad season into a memorable one. We will be without several players and the most important thing is to continue like this and believe that we can win.

"I have no preferences because if we want to win the Champions League, we have to beat any side."


Spain in shock as 'God-like' Guardiola quits Barcelona

Josep Guardiola's decision to quit as coach of Barcelona after four record-breaking years is tantamount to a prime minister resigning, according to one Spanish football expert. Begona Perez told CNN World Sport that Guardiola's imminent departure had sent shock waves around Spain and plunged Barca's fans into a period of mourning as they contemplate life after the coach who delivered 13 trophies.

The 41-year-old's reign at the Catalan club has been littered with success and underpinned by a philosophy that has produced some of the most attractive football seen in recent times. Guardiola cited tiredness as the major factor in his decision, describing his four years on Barca's bench as an eternity. His assistant, Tito Vilanova, will take the reins next season, but for now, it is all about Guardiola.

His decision to quit prompted his current players to pay the warmest of tributes. Lionel Messi took to his official page on social networking site Facebook to laud Guardiola. "I want to thank Pep with all my heart for everything he has given me in my professional career and personally," the 24-year-old wrote.

"Because of the emotions I feel I preferred not to be present at Pep's press conference and to stay away from the press because I know they will look for the pain on the players' faces. It is something I decided not to show." Perez told CNN Guardiola's announcement was a huge occasion in Spanish sporting terms.

"It's almost like a prime minister leaving his post," she told CNN. "He's almost God-like in Barcelona. What he has achieved has been amazing.

"The most successful thing at Barcelona is the philosophy at the club. He didn't invent this style of football but he made it perfect. We've seen in the last four years what they achieved and the style has been amazing." Perez explained that four grueling seasons at one of the world's most high profile clubs had finally taken its toll on Guardiola, who had always maintained it was a job that no-one could do indefinitely.

He has also had to contend with serious illnesses to defender Eric Abidal, who recently underwent a liver transplant, and health difficulties for his successor, Villanova, who had a tumor. "It has been a very difficult season," she added. "There are personal reasons behind this, they lost to Real Madrid and Chelsea in the last week, but it's been difficult for personal reasons.

"Especially with the illness to Abdial and his number two Villanova. Basically he needs a break. We expect him to take a sabbatical year because it has been emotionally very hard this season. "He's a person with other interests -- he is football obsessed but he is the kind of person who likes to read a book, go the cinema and obviously his family. He has made many sacrifices and he wants to make the most of it now."

As for Guardiola's replacement, Perez said promoting Vilanova from assistant was the logical choice for a club that prides itself on a distinct approach to the game "We don't know what is going to happen to this team in sports terms and whether they will be able to win trophies with Tito Vilanova," she added. "Guardiola has been the most successful manager in Barca history and that is something that is going to be difficult to achieve again.

"I think the fans are very sad, they feel it's an end of an era but they are happy with Vilanova talking over -- it's a natural decision.

"It's someone who knows the club inside out, he was the manager of the likes of Fabregas, Pique and Messi in the youth team so it's a continuity of the club's philosophy."


Holstein with mad cow disease was lame, lying down

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — The California dairy cow found to have mad cow disease was very old for a milk producer and had been euthanized after it became lame and started lying down, federal officials revealed in their latest update on the discovery.

The 10-year-old dairy cow, only the fourth ever discovered in the United States, was found as part of an Agriculture Department program that tests about 40,000 cows a year for the fatal brain disease. It was unable to stand before it was killed and sent to a rendering plant's Hanford, Calif. transfer station. It was one of dozens that underwent random testing at the transfer site, and the positive results have set off a federal investigation into the source of the disease.

U.S. health officials say there is no risk to the food supply. The California cow was never destined for the meat market, and it developed "atypical" BSE from a random mutation, something that scientists know happens occasionally. Somehow, a protein the body normally harbors folds into an abnormal shape called a prion, setting off a chain reaction of misfolds that eventually kills brain cells.

A USDA spokesman says they do not yet know what causes this strain of the disease. Agriculture officials are investigating, among other things, whether feed sources might have played a role in the animal contracting the fatal illness.

The strain of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that appeared in the UK in the 1990s and set off a worldwide beef scare was a form caused by cattle eating rendered protein supplements derived from slaughtered cattle, including brains and spinal columns, where the disease is harbored. Scientists know less about the "atypical" strain.

It "may or may not be related to feed or forage type," said Larry Hawkins, spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in California. The dairy in question is one of 381 in Tulare County, the No. 1 dairy county in the nation. Most mega-dairies have computerized records which would allow investigators to easily track any offspring the cow had in order to keep up her milk production.

However, USDA spokesman Matt Herrick said investigators are laboring through paper records. That fact, combined with the fact that the cow was more than twice as old as most milk cows in the system, could indicate one of the region's smaller dairies is the target of the probe. The World Organization for Animal Health has established protocol for investigations into cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that includes finding other cows that the Holstein in question was raised with, tracking down all progeny and determining what she ate.

After the UK crisis, federal regulations changed to keep brains and spinal columns in cattle over 30 from being rendered into protein products for human consumption. In addition, bovine protein is not supposed to be fed to other bovines.

However, bovine protein is routinely fed to egg-laying chickens, and the "litter" from those chickens — chicken excrement and the feed that spills onto the floor — is collected and rendered back into cattle feed. Neurodegenerative researchers such as UC San Francisco's Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering prions — the protein associated with BSE — has warned that the US should ban poultry waste in cattle feed.

Most dairy cows typically experience declining milk production by age 5 and are sent to slaughterhouses to be ground into hamburger. The FDA tests 40,000 of the nation's 35 million slaughtered dairy and beef cattle annually for BSE, targeting animals older than 30 months, when the disease is more likely to appear. However, there are cases of BSE that have been detected in cattle as young as 20 months.

"We are testing .12 percent of the cattle slaughtered," Michael Hansen, senior scientist at the Consumers Union and a longtime critic of the US policy regarding mad cow disease. "In Japan they test all cattle over 20 months, in Europe it's all cattle over 24 or 30 months, depending on the country. They've been able to find sick animals that look healthy but could have ended up in the food supply."

A move by a Kansas beef packer in 2006 to voluntarily test all of its beef so it could label the packages "BSE free," was thwarted by the USDA, which argued that it would create instability in the market. Creekstone Farms Premium Beef had challenged the USDA's position that it held legal authority to control access to the test kits.

In the current case, the USDA didn't elaborate on the cow's symptoms other than to say it was "humanely euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent." Outward symptoms of the disease can include unsteadiness and incoordination. The unidentified Tulare County dairy where the cow died was not under obligation to report its suspicious behavior, according to state and federal agriculture officials, because the symptoms mimic other neurological diseases that can afflict cattle, said Dr. Richard Breitmeyer, director of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis.

"In reality (mad cow disease) is so rare in this country and there are just very little in the way of clinical signs specific to BSE alone," said Breitmeyer, who spent 17 years as California's state veterinarian.


Think carrots, not candy as school snack: advocates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Junk food may soon be hard to buy at American public schools as the U.S. government readies new rules requiring healthier foods to be sold beyond the cafeteria -- a move most parents support, according to a poll released on Thursday.

With childhood obesity rising, the survey found most people agreed the chips, soda and candy bars students buy from vending machines or school stores in addition to breakfast and lunch are not nutritious, and they support a national standard for foods sold at schools.

The findings from the advocacy group Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project came as the federal government prepares to roll out a nationwide standard that may set up another battle among health experts, schools and the food industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to issue its guidelines by June, according to some experts. These could limit the amount of sugar, salt and fat that foods sold at schools could contain.

Agriculture Department Under Secretary Kevin Concannon said an important step in addressing childhood obesity is to help make the "right choice an easy choice" while at school. "We look forward to working with parents, teachers, school food service professionals and the food industry to craft workable guidelines so that healthier options are available for our students," he said.

Many states have already enacted their own laws mandating healthier non-cafeteria food options. Jessica Donze Black, a dietician who leads the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, said the results show growing support for updating standards that surfaced in 1979.

"What has changed in the last 30 years is that the childhood obesity epidemic has more than tripled," she said. "The school environment has also changed. ... Today, there are a lot of other places throughout the day that compete with kids eating a healthy school meal."


Eighty percent of the 1,010 adults polled said they would support nutritional standards limiting the calories, fat and sodium in such foods. Seventeen percent would oppose it. Most also agreed there are now few healthy options. Just five percent of adults said vending machines offered totally or mostly healthy choices compared with 10 percent for school stores and 21 percent for a la carte lunch lines.

Changes to school foods may be controversial. New standards for more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in traditional school meals announced in January drew scrutiny when lawmakers blocked limits to french fries and counted pizza as a vegetable because it contains tomato sauce.

Efforts to give students more healthy options to help fight childhood obesity have historically faced pressure from food and beverage companies and even from schools themselves, who rely on such food sales for extra cash. But health experts, pediatricians and other advocates say that is changing as more companies and school districts come on board at a time when more than one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese.

"Most people accept that soda, candy bars and other unhealthy foods just don't deserve a place in school on a regular basis," said Margo Wootan, head of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She said there are still concerns that members of Congress and industry lobbyists could water down the proposal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Laura Jana said new rules are imperative now that kids consume more than half of their daily calories in school. More students are getting most of their calories from snacks and drinks, not meals, she said. "To me, it's a no-brainer. ... They can't make that healthy choice when we stick all those temptations under their noses," said Jana, a pediatrician based in Omaha, Nebraska, and co-author of "Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup."


Food and beverage makers have expanded their portfolios to include juice, granola bars and other healthier products. Vending machine companies focused on nutritious offerings have also sprung up. U.S. drink companies have already taken voluntary steps to keep sodas out of some schools and their trade group says this has cut calories consumed from beverages in schools by 88 percent.

Christopher Gindlesperger, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said its voluntary guidelines are a good model for the government to follow. "It's a standard that's already in place that is working. It strikes a balance," he said.

ABA's guidelines eliminate soda in elementary and middle schools but allow diet sodas and low-calorie sports drinks in high school. Companies such as The Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc, and Nestle SA either had no immediate comment or referred questions to industry trade groups.

Mars Inc, maker of the iconic M&M's chocolate candies, said it has already agreed to withdraw branded vending machines from schools and does not offer traditional candy in those settings. Mars said it has instead developed other, lower-calorie products.

As for schools, most now realize vending machines can help teach students about healthy habits and boost learning even though money does loom large, said Whitney Meagher, project director for the National Association of State Boards of Education.

"If you have a choice between a cookie and an apple and the cookie is going to sell better, it's hard not to make that decision as a business decision," she said. The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project is a joint venture by the nonprofit policy group The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a private organization that aims to improve Americans' health.

Its poll surveyed 1,010 registered voters by telephone in mid-January and has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points.


Speedweeks Open Strong for Nascar at Daytona

Written By Games Lover on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | 12:22 AM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Kyle Busch twice appeared destined to destroy his race car, and twice used breathtaking saves to keep on running around Daytona International Speedway.

He probably shouldn't have been in position to race with the leaders. Yet there he was, bearing down on the finish line with a shot at winning Saturday night's exhibition Budweiser Shootout, and with a slingshot pass on the outside of defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, Busch pulled off a miraculous win in the first event of 2012.

Not too shabby of a start to the season.

NASCAR has every right to be giddy about Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500, a pivotal race in sparking interest at the start of a very long season. A rain-shortened event in 2009 set the tone for a rocky year, and two lengthy delays to fix a pesky pothole in the track surface impacted the 2010 season.

Then came Trevor Bayne's upset victory last year, and NASCAR never looked back. The 2011 season ranked among the best in years, and ended with a phenomenal race between Stewart and Carl Edwards for the Sprint Cup championship. The two ended the season tied in the standings, with the title going to Stewart on a tiebreaker.

All that momentum meant NASCAR could tweak very little during the offseason. Why mess with a good thing, right?

Well, not everything was sunshine and roses.

NASCAR officials said earlier this month that more than 80 percent of fans polled "hated" the two-car tandem style of racing that had taken over at Daytona and Talladega. Such a strong opinion forced NASCAR to spend a significant chunk of the offseason tinkering with the rules package in an effort to recreate pack racing before the Feb. 26 opener.

The Shootout proved NASCAR made the right moves, and the drivers seemed overwhelmingly in favor of the racing.

"It's pretty wild and crazy, but, I mean, I like this better than what we had last year, definitely," said four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who rolled his car several times and wound up on his roof for what he said was the first time in his NASCAR career.

Gordon's night ended seconds after he nudged Busch, triggering a chain-reaction crash that also led to Busch's second save of the race. It was one of three multicar crashes — the wrecks collected 23 total cars, set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish and resulted in the closest finish in race history. Busch's margin of victory was a mere 0.013 seconds, and his driving awed his competitors.

"I was right behind him ... and he had to catch it three times before he saved it," Stewart said. "When you get 3,400 pounds moving like that, to catch it one time was pretty big. To get away from him and catch it a second time was big. The third time was big. That's three big moments in one corner. He just never quit driving it.

"There's a lot of guys that wouldn't have caught that. I'm sitting there and the green is still out. I'm going, 'Man, that's the coolest save I've seen in a long time.'"

It was a redemption of sorts for Busch, who had to fight hard to keep his sponsors intact at the end of last season. Suspended by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck Series race at Texas, primary sponsor M&M's told Joe Gibbs Racing it didn't want Busch in its car the final two races of the year.

His career was at a crossroads, and Busch worked hard during the offseason to repair his reputation. He referenced M&M's, which was back on his car for the first time since the company pulled itself off the No. 18 Toyota for the final two races of last season, during his Victory Lane celebration.

"First race back in the M&M's car, and we're back in Victory Lane. Pretty cool," Busch said.

There are other feel-good stories heading into NASCAR's biggest race of the year.
  • Danica Patrick will make her Daytona 500 debut, and the series is thrilled she's made the full-time move to NASCAR.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, had his best season in five years in 2011 and is excited about his chances in the Daytona 500.
"I like this kind of racing better. At least I know what to expect," Earnhardt said. "I feel like I have a better chance with this style than I did last year for damn sure."
  • Edwards bounced back from his loss to Stewart in the title race by winning the pole for the Daytona 500.
  • There's already some controversy, as the car for five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson failed inspection before it ever got on the track. Crew chief Chad Knaus will likely be penalized after the Daytona 500.
It's all setting the stage for Sunday, which is shaping up to be a strong opener for NASCAR. The race probably won't be 500 miles of three-wide racing, but if it's anything close to the Shootout, it's bound to be entertaining.

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New-look Knicks a work in progress as team falls in Carmelo's return

NEW YORK -- Two and a half weeks ago, the Knicks and Nets clashed in Madison Square Garden. It was a meeting between the 10th and 11th best teams in the East, two floundering franchises seemingly destined for failure. The Knicks had lost of 11 of 13 games when Jeremy Lin, a twice-released point guard out of Harvard, unassumingly checked into the action.

The rest is history. Lin scored 25 points in that Feb. 4 game to spark a 99-92 victory over New Jersey. He averaged 25 points and 9.5 assists over his next eight starts, improbably lifting the Knicks to .500. His story captivated the world -- a refreshingly genuine nobody-believed-in-me tale that dominated headlines from Brooklyn to Beijing.

On Monday, however, that script was flipped. Despite Lin's best efforts (21 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), the Nets upset the surging Knicks at home, 100-92. And with it, New York's roller coaster of a home stand (beat Sacramento, lost to New Orleans, beat Dallas, lost to New Jersey) took another surprising twist.

"The whole team was out of sync," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. "We lost what we were doing the last eight or nine games."

That much was clear, with the Knicks displaying a carelessness that was absent against the defending champ Mavericks. It prompts the inevitable question: Will the newfound allegiance between Lin and Carmelo Anthony -- who scored just 11 points in his first game back since suffering a strained groin on Feb. 6 -- develop into the perfect union that New York so fiercely hopes?

"Any time you have new players coming back, your identity as a team is going to change," said Lin. "That's what we need to figure out, what our identity is gonna be."

At times, the nightmares concocted by talking heads -- issues with spacing; a lack of offensive concentration -- were realized. After racing to a 13-3 lead to open the game, the Knicks were outscored 39-20 over the next 14:41, shooting a paltry 8 of 24 during that span. Anthony was particularly sloppy, finishing with a game-high six turnovers, three more than the error-prone Lin.

The most representative play occurred with 6:47 left in the third quarter. Anthony tried to juke DeShawn Stevenson, attempting a stop-and-go toward the basket. The ball slipped out of his hands and sailed harmlessly out of bounds. Whether it was a result of a lay-off or him pressing, he, and the Knicks, appeared discernibly flat.

"I felt a little rusty," said Anthony. "I wasn't trying to overdo it. Get this game under my belt."

Of course, credit is due to the Nets. The vilified Kris Humphries notched another double-double (finishing with 14 points and 14 rebounds), and Deron Williams was unstoppable. He netted a game-high 38 points, shot a prolific 8-of-14 from distance -- including three in a span of 45 seconds -- and nearly outscored the Knicks by himself (18 to 22) in the third quarter. He cemented his reputation as one of the league's best point guards.

"Williams played out of his mind tonight," said Amar'e Stoudemire.

Williams also left a friendly reminder for Lin: The second time around, the league won't come so easy.

"I think he's becoming a marked man a little bit," said D'Antoni. "But I think we make too much out of individual matchups."

After electrifying the Garden on Sunday, the Knicks lulled it to sleep. And with a grueling schedule on the horizon -- 10 of their next 14 opponents boast winning records -- things are about to get undoubtedly tougher.

"We have to get some things sorted out," said D'Antoni. "We have to figure out the type of team we have."

But here's thing about this Knicks' season, unlike any in recent memory: Each game seems to take on colossal significance. Each loss forebodes future doom. Each win amplifies expectations. Similar to the Heat last season, the Lin-era Knicks have become the definitive story in sports. They're under a media microscope: Anything -- good or bad -- seems possible.

But we only know so much. Lin remains a revelation, his heroics outweighing his turnovers. Anthony and Stoudemire can still produce like All-Stars, and New York's role players (Steve Novak, Tyson Chandler, Landry Fields, J.R. Smith) are learning to adjust. The maturation period will take time and growing pains.

Monday's loss at Madison Square Garden was part of that process. And while certainly disappointing, it's not catastrophic.

"Obviously we're not happy with how it went," said Lin. "But sometimes you need to go through times likes these to become a better team."

In the back wall of the Knicks' locker room, adjacent to a massive plasma TV, a dry-erase board lists the team's season notes. Each bullet is penned in blue, emphasizing fundamentals stressed since AAU. But above the X's and O's, a separate message is written in caps: Keep Building Our Great Team Chemistry.

That's the test moving forward. Anthony is back. Baron Davis is back (he scored three points in 9:40 of playing time). Now it's up to the Knicks -- and their transcendent point guard -- to continue defying the odds.

If nothing else, Melo is fully on board.

"I want Jeremy to have the ball," he said. "I want him to create for me. I want him to create for Amar'e. There are gonna be times where I'm the distributor, but for the most part, I want Jeremy having the ball in his hands."

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McLaren extend support for young driver Magnussen

Written By Games Lover on Monday, February 20, 2012 | 11:56 PM

McLaren have confirmed that Kevin Magnussen will undertake additional challenges over the coming year, after he reached the next stage of the British team’s young driver programme. Magnussen will carry out work in McLaren’s simulator and will also be given the opportunity to drive the MP4-27 during this year’s young driver test.

“I’m really pleased by this new agreement with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes,” said the 19 year-old. “The team has shown great faith in me so far and I feel that this is an important step in my career.

"F1 is a highly pressured, data-driven environment, and anyone who wants to get there and succeed within it has to master all the technical aspects of the discipline. This is a great opportunity and I look forward to working with the team and playing a part in Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ future.”

Magnussen is the son of former McLaren test and race driver Jan Magnussen. Last year he finished runner-up in the British Formula Three championship, claiming eight pole positions and winning seven races. In 2012 he will combine his role at McLaren with a full-time drive in World Series by Renault.

“Racing is the core business of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes,” concluded team principal Martin Whitmarsh. “By enabling talented drivers to fulfil their potential, our Driver Development Programme is a strategic investment in the future of that business and the sport as a whole.

"We’ve been delighted by Kevin’s progress, aptitude and work ethic thus far. The time was right for him to take the next step and we look forward to helping him gain the experience he requires.”

The young Danish driver joined the entry level of the team’s young driver programme back in 2010.

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Chelsea hierarchy must back me, says manager Andre Villas-Boas

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas says the club's hierarchy should make it clear they back his vision for the Blues' long-term future. Speaking on the day before the club meets Napoli in the Champions League, Villas-Boas insists he is restructuring the club to "sustain" their success.

Villas-Boas maintains that he has the full backing of owner Roman Abramovich. But the Blues boss said: "These words would be more valuable coming from the top. I cannot keep saying them."

Meanwhile, Chelsea have been made aware of the alleged racist abuse of members of their squad when they arrived at the team hotel in Naples.

"If any members of our team or staff are subjected to racist abuse we would find that wholly unacceptable and it would be reflected in our conversations with Uefa," a Chelsea spokesman said.

Villas-Boas has presided over the club's least successful period since Russian billionaire Abramovich took control of the club in 2003, having not won a Premier League game since 14 January.

The West London side currently lie fifth in the top tier, out of the League Cup and facing an FA Cup fifth round replay at St Andrew's after being held 1-1 by Championship side Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

But, despite having enjoyed just one win in six matches, Villas-Boas has issued a reminder that he is on a 'three-year project' at Stamford Bridge. He has already spent around £76m on seven players in his first season with five of those signings aged under 24.

"In terms of the results this year," added Villas-Boas. "The speculation is normal given the cultural past of this football club, but you have to understand that there's a different perspective now.

"We had a three-year project to change not only the team, but the culture and structure of the club.

"There's a lot we needed to do, a lot of plans. That's why I'm excited about the future.

"Having said that, we have to build a team to win trophies.

"We're no longer in the Carling Cup and don't have a chance to win the title. But we are still confident we can do well in the Champions League and the FA Cup." The club's joint top marksman Daniel Sturridge had insisted earlier in the day that they are not "a divided unit".

"We are a family and we've got a good unit going," the 22-year-old told Chelsea TV. "Maybe we will see that in the next few games."

Ahead of Tuesday night's last 16 first-leg tie against Napoli, Sturridge added: "They have some great individuals, as well as a good team. "But we have the same and we are not going to worry about what they have got.

"We have to go out there with the attitude that they have got to worry about what we have got." Fellow Blues striker Didier Drogba said: "We feel that no one really believes in us.

"We are going to show we deserve to be here. It's a top game and we are going to have to get a good result." Drogba denied that he gave a half-time "team talk" to Chelsea when they were a goal down in Saturday's FA Cup tie against Birmingham before coming back to draw, thanks to a Sturridge header.

"The manager made the speech at half-time," said the Ivory Coast international. "He has leaders in the squad and we are here to help him.

"We wanted to gee the team up at half-time and nothing more." Napoli will have to do without coach Walter Mazzarri, who must serve a two-match touchline ban for pushing over Villarreal's Brazilian striker Nilmar in a touchline spat in the group stages.

Mazzarri predicts that Chelsea's European experience makes the Italian side underdogs. "We will face a team who have played more than 100 Champions League matches," said the 50-year-old Napoli coach.

"We are proud to play this match but I don't want to hear anyone saying we are the favourite. We can find a result only if we play a great match.

"All the team has to play not only a special game, but the perfect game. It will be important for us that Chelsea will not score any goals at the Stadio San Paolo."

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Federer beats Davydenko to book Del Potro final

ROTTERDAM - Top seed Roger Federer battled past Russian Nikolay Davydenko in an entertaining 4-6 6-3 6-4 triumph on Saturday to reach the World Indoor Tournament final.

The Swiss former world number one now faces third seed Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina who brushed aside second-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-1 in Saturday's first semi-final.

Federer, who has admitted struggling with the surface and his rhythm, recovered after losing the first set having been broken in the ninth game and early in the second set.

Davydenko dominated from the baseline using his powerful forehand but dropped his serve in the sixth game of the second with Federer taking four straight games to force a decider.

Davydenko wasted four break points in the third set while Federer, whose serve was never convicning, failed to take six chances before finally breaking to love to settle the match.

"We often played big matches and today again," said Federer. "It is good so see him performing so well again."

Asked about his previous showdowns with Del Potro ahead of Sunday's final, the Swiss added: "He beat me in the 2009 US Open final in a tough five setter, while our last match at the Australian Open was my 1,000th match on the tour."

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