Benitez’s appointment in November until the end of the season was prompted by the Champions League winners’ group-stage elimination from the same tournament and a top-four Barclays Premier League place is imperative to return to the competition next term. He added: “If we can achieve trophies and finish in the top three, fantastic. Everybody will be happy. That is my aim at the moment.” There has been constant speculation on a permanent Chelsea boss since Roberto Di Matteo’s departure and Benitez’s temporary appointment, with former boss Jose Mourinho, now at Real Madrid, continually linked. Benitez’s designs on the permanent position could be shaped by the fans’ views, although their stance evident in vitriolic chanting from the stands is apparently softening following his plea to back the team after the win at Middlesbrough but he remains the subject for repeated criticism, with Ray Wilkins the latest to comment on Benitez’s team selection. Ashley Cole suffered a hamstring injury against Manchester United on Monday and former Chelsea captain, assistant boss and caretaker coach Wilkins believes the left-back would not have done so had he played against Southampton two days earlier. Benitez dismissed the ‘April Fools’ Day’ comments from Wilkins. Benitez said: “April 1. You cannot take the comment seriously. It was April 1. I have a degree in sports science from Spain. It’s the first time ever I’ve heard something like this. April 1.” Press Association Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez hopes to be employed by a leading club next season but first plans to satisfy his thirst for silverware at Stamford Bridge. The Blues on Monday beat Manchester United to advance to the FA Cup semi-finals and play Rubin Kazan in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday in their third of six games in 16 days. Benitez, who revealed in February he will be leaving at the end of his spell in May, said: “I like to win, to challenge for trophies. I would like to stay in a top side. A top side, why not in England?”
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Karolina Pliskova showed the steel of a world number one as she fought off a match point to claim a riveting 3-6 7-5 6-4 comeback win over Zhang Shuai in the U.S. Open third round on Saturday.Pliskova, runner-up at Flushing Meadows last year, would have lost her world number one ranking had she been beaten on Arthur Ashe Stadium but instead moved another step closer to a first career grand slam title.Chinese Zhang was the more aggressive player from the start, frequently rushing to net and stepping into the court to attack Pliskova’s second serve on an unseasonably cool day in New York.The strategy paid off as she broke Pliskova in her first two service games to take a 3-1 lead and captured the first set with an emphatic overhead smash.She continued her fiery play into the second set but on match point tightened up and hit an errant backhand, disappointing a New York crowd that had been rooting for the underdog.Pliskova won the next three games to close out the set.She was also undone by the tall Czech’s biggest weapon – her powerful serve.Pliskova finished with nine aces and just one double fault while Zhang hit two aces while committing five doubles.Pliskova needed an injury time out to attend to a sore arm between the second and third sets, which she said she hopes will not bother her when she faces either American Jennifer Brady or Monica Niculescu of Romania in the fourth round.“I will have to improve in the next one,” the 25-year-old Pliskova said in a courtside interview.“Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and I’ll be ready for my next match.”Pliskova said that while she may appear stone-faced on the court there are plenty of emotions running through her veins.“I don’t really feel calm,” she said.The contest was 25-year-old Zhang’s best showing against the tournament’s top seed but she is now winless in five matches against Pliskova.Zhang did not roll over, however, and broke Pliskova to take an early 2-0 lead in the third but Zhang’s mistakes soon started piling up.Zhang ended the contest with 46 unforced errors to Pliskova’s 38.
Antonio Margarito’s defense of his World Boxing Organization welterweight belt against Paul “The Punisher” Williams should be a heck of a fight – assuming it takes place. Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor Promotions in Sherman Oaks secured the rights to promote this fight by winning a purse bid last week of just more than $1.5 million. Goossen signed Margarito and Williams to contracts Monday, with the fight set in either late May or early June. Two possibilities for a site are Los Angeles and Las Vegas. There could be a problem, however. Bob Arum, who promotes Margarito, said his fighter did not have his permission to sign to fight Williams. Moreover, Arum said he was expecting Margarito to challenge Miguel Cotto for his World Boxing Association welterweight belt June 9 in NewYork City. Cotto is also promoted by Arum. “He has a contract with us, an exclusive contract with us,” said Arum, chairman of the board of Top Rank Inc., of Margarito. “We didn’t participate in the purse bid because they (Margarito’s co-managers) told us not to because they were fighting Cotto. It (Margarito-Williams) may be a done deal as far as (Goossen) is concerned, but these people have no authority to sign a contract because they’re under an exclusive promotional agreement with us.” Sergio Diaz manages Margarito, along with Francisco Espinosa. He said that they only signed to fight Williams because they couldn’t come to an agreement with Arum for a fight with Cotto. Team Margarito also had concern that if it didn’t pull the trigger on a fight with Williams, it would lose that fight as well as the WBO belt because Williams is the mandatory challenger. “We did what Bob told us to do, that was to take Paul Williams,” Diaz said. “We weren’t happy with the terms that we were getting for Cotto and he said to go fight Paul Williams, and that’s what we did.” Arum said Tuesday he was going to take immediate action to prevent that fight from happening. He said he was on the brink of filing a lawsuit against Margarito, his co-managers and Goossen. Goossen was in Selden, N.Y., this week to promote a card that was televised Friday by ESPN2. Before he left Tuesday, he said he would also be visiting the Manhattan offices of Showtime and HBO to discuss the television rights to Margarito-Williams. He scoffed at Arum’s threat of legal recourse. “All I can tell you is, Bob’s entitled to do whatever he wants to do,” Goossen said. “We’re proceeding exactly per the WBO rules. Nothing more, nothing less.” Margarito, of Tijuana, is 28. He is 34-4 with 24 knockouts. Williams, of Augusta, Ga., is 25. The left-hander is 32-0 with 24 knockouts. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!