Potential suitors eye off Elders

Elders is attracting interest from potential buyers amid signs the troubled agribusiness has finally turned a corner after a painful six years for its shareholders.

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Elders says it has been approached by a number of potential suitors but none have come forward with a formal takeover offer.

“Elders has received a number of informal, incomplete and confidential approaches from several parties,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

“None of those approaches is definite and in a form capable of consideration by the Elders board.”

Macquarie Private Wealth division director Lucinda Chan said the company was an attractive target after selling off troubled assets and refocusing on its agribusiness division.

“The business has been refocused and its starting to turn around so obviously someone’s starting to put the ruler over them,” she told AAP.

“If there are any potential suitors, we’ll find out soon enough who they are.”

The company has been a basket case, from an investor’s point of view, in recent years, with its share price dropping from more than $27 in 2007 to as low as six cents in 2013.

However, its shares have climbed more than 50 per cent in the past month, helped along by an improved half year result and takeover speculation.

The stock closed flat at 22.5 cents on Tuesday.

The company last year rebuffed a takeover offer from rival Ruralco.

Elders posted a $10 million first half loss in May, which was a significant improvement on the $303 million deficit for the same period last year.

At the time managing director Mark Allison said the business was finally improving following the restructure.

“We see this as the start of the `pure play’ agribusiness journey and a sound outcome for the first six months although we do acknowledge there is a little way to go,” he said.

“The second half outlook is positive, subject to seasonal conditions, and we expect ongoing improvement against last year’s results.”

Soward ready for Penrith halves challenge

Penrith playmaker Jamie Soward says he will take on more responsibility but won’t change his style in the absence of halves partner Peter Wallace.

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The first-placed Panthers have suffered a rare speed bump in their golden NRL season so far, with confirmation they’ll be missing their captain and halfback for between four to six weeks due to an ankle and knee problem.

Exciting young back rower Tyrone Peachey has been given the nod to shift to five-eighth in Wallace’s place, meaning Soward will wear the No.7 jersey against Brisbane on Monday night.

The Panthers are determined to ensure Wallace’s injury doesn’t trigger a slide in form and Soward is adamant the best way to maintain consistency is for him to avoid overplaying the situation.

“He’s obviously a massive loss for us but in saying that the systems we’ve had in place have been in place for a long while now,” Soward said.

“It’s not going to change the way I play and I think it would be pretty disappointing for Ivan (coach Ivan Cleary) if I had to change my game to try and do everything.

“It will just come down to me calling a few more sets and organising a bit more.”

Coach Cleary has avoided the temptation to search for a like-for-like replacement for Wallace and pluck a more natural playmaker like Luke Capewell or Tom Humble from Penrith’s ladder-leading NSW Cup team.

But Soward said he has every faith in classy back rower Peachey, who filled the void in Sunday’s win over Wests Tigers when Wallace left the field.

“Tyrone is very talented and has a lot of skills,” he said.

“He has a skill set a lot of back rowers don’t have.”

Wallace still requires further scans, but testing has ruled out the possibility he has a season-ending syndesmosis ankle injury or that he requires surgery.

It seems the bigger problem might be a medial ligament injury in his knee.

Either way he’ll be in a restrictive boot for the next couple of weeks to fast-track his healing process.

The Panthers’ fairy-tale climb to the top of the table has been questioned in some quarters of the game, with critics claiming Penrith have received an arm-chair ride with a favourable draw.

But Soward said such talk was nonsensical and disrespectful to the teams they’ve played.

“In the NRL we don’t pick who we play. We’re playing who the draw says we play. Every other year for the last 100 years you play who the draw says you play. You don’t pick and choose,” he said.

Finger device reads aloud to the blind

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US are developing an audio reading device to be worn on the index finger of people whose vision is impaired, giving them affordable and immediate access to printed words.

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The so-called FingerReader, a prototype produced by a 3D printer, fits like a ring on the user’s finger, equipped with a small camera that scans text. A synthesised voice reads words aloud, quickly translating books, restaurant menus and other needed materials for daily living, especially away from home or office.

Reading is as easy as pointing the finger at text. Special software tracks the finger movement, identifies words and processes the information. The device has vibration motors that alert readers when they stray from the script, said Roy Shilkrot, who is developing the device at the MIT Media Lab.

For Jerry Berrier, 62, who was born blind, the promise of the FingerReader is its portability and offer of real-time functionality at school, a doctor’s office and restaurants.

“When I go to the doctor’s office, there may be forms that I wanna read before I sign them,” Berrier said.

He said there are other optical character recognition devices on the market for those with vision impairments, but none that he knows of that will read in real time.

Berrier manages training and evaluation for a federal program that distributes technology to low-income people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who have lost their sight and hearing. He works from the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts.

“Everywhere we go, for folks who are sighted, there are things that inform us about the products that we are about to interact with. I wanna be able to interact with those same products, regardless of how I have to do it,” Berrier said.

Pattie Maes, an MIT professor who founded and leads the Fluid Interfaces research group developing the prototype, says the FingerReader is like “reading with the tip of your finger and it’s a lot more flexible, a lot more immediate than any solution that they have right now.”

Developing the gizmo has taken three years of software coding, experimenting with various designs and working on feedback from a test group of visually impaired people. Much work remains before it is ready for the market, Shilkrot said, including making it work on mobile phones.

Senna remembered on 20th anniversary of his death

They thronged the track to observe a minute’s silence at the Tamburello corner at 2.

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17 p.m., the moment the Brazilian’s Williams ploughed into the wall while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Many carried flags and some pointed to the sky, as Senna did when he won, in remembrance before breaking into applause when the minute ended.

Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger had died the day before Senna” when he crashed during qualifying and the two remain the last driver fatalities during a grand prix weekend.

The circuit near Bologna was opened to the public with tribute events scheduled in Imola, including a memorial football match and the naming of a square, over the next four days. According to organisers, some 20,000 people attended on Thursday.

A mass, attended by Ratzenberger’s parents, was held on Wednesday night.

“It’s so emotional for us because it’s a long time and still the love from the people is very alive,” Senna’s niece Paula, representing the family, told Reuters Television.

“It seems like Ayrton is living inside people’s hearts, so it’s beautiful.”

Current Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, as well as Senna’s friend and former McLaren team mate Gerhard Berger, were among those present at the track named after the late Enzo Ferrari and son Dino.

“For me he was an idol. I was a kid who rode karts, and back then I watched the news and saw that it was always him winning with his yellow helmet on,” said double world champion Alonso, who was 12 when Senna died. “That was what hit me the most.

“I had his poster on my wardrobe and it’s a shame that I never got to know him or race against him, but the number of people here at Imola… is a testament to his impact. He will always be immortal.”

Senna’s favourite Sao Paulo soccer team Corinthians donned replicas of his distinctive yellow, green and black helmet before the start of a Cup match against Nacional in Manaus on Wednesday.

Social media was flooded with tributes, recollections and an outpouring of affection for a driver held up as one of the greatest of champions, if not the greatest.

“He was the best and most charismatic race driver F1 has ever had,” said Austria’s triple champion Niki Lauda, now non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team. “He had personality, he was fast and he had charisma. No wonder that he won everything.”

Italian MotoGP great Valentino Rossi spoke on Twitter of Senna as “an inspiration, and even if 20 years have passed his spirit lives on in all racing riders and drivers.”

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

Centenary Copa America launched with eye on future

“This is a Copa Centenario we want to play as an extra tournament and it’s going to be a resounding success that will make us think about not waiting another 100 years for a more permanent competition between CONCACAF and South America,” the Uruguayan told a news conference.

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“This is a first, without forgetting that CONCACAF teams have already played in the Copa America,” added Figueredo. CONMEBOL began inviting teams from its northern neighbours to the Copa America since 1993, notably Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States. Figueredo also said the Copa Centenario would be part of world governing body FIFA’s international calendar while adding that he could not speak for any similar event beyond 2016. The Copa America, the South American championship first played in Argentina in 1916, is the oldest active competition involving national teams since the four-nation British Home Championship was discontinued in the mid-1980s.

“I congratulate CONMEBOL for inspiring players and fans throughout a century of fantastic football, and thank them for extending the legacy of this hugely successful event to CONCACAF territory,” CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb said. “The American continent may have been discovered in 1492, but I can’t imagine a better way to unite this continent than with football and an exceptional celebration of talent in 2016. “We are proud to play a leading role in the celebration of the centennial of a tournament born to unite all America, Figueredo said.

‘GAINED PRESTIGE’

“Year after year the Cup has gained prestige, which has allowed the opening of doors to the football of an entire continent. Now, CONCACAF and the United States will play host to the world’s oldest national team competition.”

The tournament, involving CONMEBOL’s 10 nations and six from CONCACAF, including Gold Cup holders the United States and six-times champions Mexico, will be held at venues yet to be designated across the U.S. between June 3 and 26.

Uruguay will defend their Copa America title, a record 15th crown won in Argentina in 2011, in the next tournament in Chile in 2015.

Asked why the tournament will be held in the United States, Figueredo said: “One always wants to have good neighbours. The best we can do is join together because we are all America, we’re all Americans.

“It’s been a good choice which we’re taking to fruition with the excuse of the 100 years.”

Figueredo, who succeeded Nicolas Leoz as CONMEBOL president a year ago when the Paraguayan retired citing health reasons when he was being investigated by FIFA’s ethics committee, said it was part of global growth for the Copa America to become a tournament spanning the Americas.

The idea came about “so we might be stronger and more competitive and so that the champions should not be only from one sector of the continent but the whole of America.”

(Reporting by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires and Daniela Desantis in Asuncion, editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)

GM, Chrysler, Toyota boost US sales

General Motors, Chrysler and Toyota have scored US sales gains in April, extending the rebound from bad winter weather, while Ford sales unexpectedly slipped.

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GM, the largest US car maker, said total sales rose 7.0 per cent in April from a year ago, to 254,076 vehicles.

Chrysler Group, the US unit of Italy’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, clocked in a 14 per cent jump year-over-year with 178,652 vehicles sold, its best April performance since 2007.

For General Motor Company and Chrysler, sales gains were higher than estimates of 4.7 per cent and 12.30 per cent, respectively, from analysts at Edmunds广西桑拿,, a car-shopping website.

Ford Motor Company, the number-two US car maker, reported sales fell 1.0 per cent from a year ago, to 141,950 vehicles. Edmunds广西桑拿, analysts had forecast a 4.6 per cent increase.

Ford’s disappointing sales numbers came the same day the company announced its Chief Executive Alan Mulally will step down on July 1 and named Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields to replace him.

Japanese rival Toyota, the world’s top car maker, said US sales increased 9.0 per cent to 199,660 vehicles.

“Sales momentum from March rolled into April pushing the industry to its best back-to-back monthly sales pace since Autumn of 2007,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.

Fellow Japanese car maker Nissan said US sales shot up 18.5 per cent to an April record of 94,764 vehicles.

Overall, US car sales in April are expected to have extended their spring rebound after unusually harsh winter weather in January and February hammered sales.

Edmunds广西桑拿, predicted a 9.1 per cent rise in US auto sales in April following the 5.7 per cent gain in March.

Kurt McNeil, GM’s US vice president of sales operations, was upbeat about demand.

“The economy continues to strengthen,” he said in a statement.

“Retail demand was steady in April, and truck sales and transaction prices were especially strong.”

Heroin played role in Peaches Geldof death

Heroin use likely played a role in the death of Live Aid founder Bob Geldof’s daughter Peaches, the same drug that killed her mother Paula Yates in 2000, an inquest in Britain has heard.

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The 25-year-old model and writer, who had two young sons, was found dead on her bed by her husband Thomas Cohen at her rural home southeast of London on April 7, police told the inquest.

“Recent use of heroin and the levels identified were likely to have played a role in her death,” police detective Paul Fotheringham told the opening of the inquest in Gravesend, Kent, southeast England.

Peaches, who wrote for British magazines and newspapers and presented celebrity-driven television shows, had been looking after her 11-month-old son Phaedra at her home in Wrotham, Kent.

Her 23-year-old husband, Thomas Cohen, a musician, had spent the previous night apart from his wife and was looking after their eldest son, 23-month-old Astala.

The last person to see Geldof alive was Cohen’s father Keith, who had dropped off Phaedra with her the night before, while the last contact with her was a telephone conversation with a friend at 7.45pm that same night, the inquest heard.

“All of the friends and family who had contact with Peaches during this period described how she seemed her normal self and was making plans for the future,” Fotheringham said.

But Cohen became alarmed the following morning when he could not contact her and he and his mother drove to the house.

“Thomas entered the property and located Peaches in the spare bedroom,” Fotheringham said, adding that it was apparent that she was dead.

“She was located on the edge of the bed with one leg hanging down to the floor and the other leg tucked underneath her. She was slumped across the bed.”

Phaedra was found nearby unharmed.

A post-mortem examination was inconclusive, but toxicology tests showed the recent taking of heroin.

Coroner Roger Hatch adjourned the inquest for a full hearing to take place on July 23.

Bob Geldof, who arranged the 1985 Live Aid concert for Ethiopian famine victims, identified his daughter’s body, the inquest heard.

In 2000 Geldof’s mother Yates accidentally overdosed on heroin, aged 41, while looking after Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, her four-year-old daughter with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, at their London home.

In her final column for Britain’s Mother and Baby magazine, published after her death with the Geldof family’s blessing, Peaches wrote that she was “happier than ever”.

“I’m happier than ever,” she wrote.

“Right now life is good. And being a mum is the best part of it.”

Iraq PM bullish on new government

Iraq’s premier says he has enough support to keep his post, but with election results not due for weeks and parties bitterly divided, forming a government will probably take months.

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Nuri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term in office, will have to court disaffected parties within his own Shi’ite community, as well as Sunnis and Kurds who have angrily voiced opposition to his rule, but he expressed confidence following Wednesday’s polls.

His remarks to journalists came as new figures showed April was among the bloodiest months since Iraq was embroiled in a brutal Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian war that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.

The protracted surge in bloodshed, with more than 3000 people killed already this year, is among the long list of complaints, along with rampant corruption, high unemployment and what critics of the government say is insufficient improvement in public services.

Preliminary results from Wednesday’s election are not expected for at least two weeks, but initial figures from the election commission show around 60 per cent of 20 million eligible voters had cast a ballot.

Turnout in the last election in 2010 was 62 per cent.

As was the case after previous elections, forming a government is likely to take months, but Maliki said on Thursday that he had the votes to put together a ruling coalition.

“We have confidence that we will achieve a political majority,” he told reporters in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

However, he insisted he would not cling to the post.

While Maliki’s bloc is tipped to win the most seats, no single party is expected to win a majority on its own and Iraq’s various political alliances and communal groups will have to form coalitions.

Crosby, Getzlaf, Giroux for NHL MVP

Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux have been named finalists for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player.

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Canadian superstar Crosby is a finalist for the fourth time after leading the NHL with 104 points this season, registering at least one point in 60 of the 80 games he played.

Crosby scored 36 goals and led the league with 68 assists to capture his second Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer.

The 26-year-old Nova Scotia native captured the Hart Trophy in 2007 and finished as the runner-up in 2010 and again last year.

Getzlaf scored a career-high 31 goals and finished second in the NHL with 87 points to help the Ducks to the top record in the Western Conference.

He had a 14-game point streak from November 15-December 15, the longest in the NHL since the 2011-12 season.

The 28-year-old Canadian is a Hart finalist for the first time and could join teammate Corey Perry (2011) as the only Ducks to win the award.

Giroux, another Canadian, is also a Hart finalist for the first time after finishing third in the scoring race with 86 points. He matched a career best with 28 goals and had a great finish to the season with 79 points in his last 67 games to help the Flyers earn a playoff spot after a disastrous 3-9-0 start.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted ballots for the Hart Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists.

The winner will be announced on June 24 at the league awards ceremony.

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar is lower but is trading within a tight range ahead of the release of US employment figures.

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At 0630 AEST on Friday, the local currency was trading at 92.74 US cents, down from 92.95 cents on Thursday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open higher after a mixed performance on Wall Street ahead of key US jobs figures.

At 0645 AEST on Friday, the June share price index futures contract was up 13 points at 5,447.

ELSEWHERE:

WASHINGTON – US construction spending rose slightly in March, fuelled by increases for apartments, single-family homes, factories, health care centres and office projects.

WASHINGTON – New claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose last week but remained on a downward trend as the job market slowly improves, government data shows.

WASHINGTON – US consumer spending jumped 0.9 per cent in March, the largest increase in nearly five years, adding evidence the economy is rebounding from a deep winter freeze, official data shows.

LISBON – Portugal’s prime minister has given his clearest indication yet that the country will follow Ireland’s example by exiting its 78-billion-euros ($A117-billion) international bailout without a credit lifeline.

NEW YORK – MasterCard’s net income climbed 14 per cent in the first quarter, as increased spending by cardholders worldwide helped boost revenue.

NEW YORK – ExxonMobil has reported slightly lower profits, as weak refining margins offset the benefit of higher natural gas prices in the US that boosted earnings from petroleum production.

NEW YORK – Viacom says its second-quarter profit has risen four per cent, boosted by strong results at its TV networks that offset a decline at its movie-making business.

WASHINGTON – US telecoms giant AT&T has offered to buy satellite TV firm DirecTV, in the latest move for consolidation in the television industry, the Wall Street Journal says.

NEW YORK – Ford Motor has tapped Mark Fields as chief executive, accelerating a leadership transition as it aims to capitalise on momentum from a turnaround chartered by outgoing chief Alan Mulally.

Unbeaten Mayweather says Maidana no pushover

Not only is the experienced American widely regarded as one of the best defensive fighters of all time but he is a natural welterweight whereas many critics believe that Maidana moved up too quickly from the 130-pound level to the 147-pound division.

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“Everybody thinks he’s just going to be a pushover, but I don’t think so,” Mayweather, 37, told reporters while preparing for Saturday’s showdown. “That’s why I’m training hard and I’m pushing myself to the limit every day.

“If he brings his best, maybe he will be the first guy that actually makes me dig in my bag of tricks and pull out my ‘A’ game.

“Hopefully he will make me bring out my ‘A’ game because my whole career all I had to use was a ‘D’ and ‘C’ game to beat every guy.”

Maidana, who won his most recent bout in December with a unanimous decision against the heavily favoured American Adrien Broner to claim the WBA welterweight title, is known for his all-round skill and blistering power.

Asked what he thought the Argentine slugger did best in the ring, Mayweather replied: “Well, he punches extremely hard if he has an 80 percent knockout ratio.

“That’s obviously his best attribute, but a lot of times when a guy’s swinging a lot of big shots and they’re not landing, you get fatigued like that.

“I may be the hardest puncher he ever fought. He hasn’t been hit by me yet, so we’ll just have to see if he’s the hardest puncher.”

STAYING PATIENT

Mayweather, who outboxed Saul Canelo Alvarez in his most recent bout in September to take the Mexican’s WBA and WBC super welterweight titles, has repeatedly spoken about the need for patience against Maidana.

“Maidana is hungry, he’s ready and he has a great knockout ratio,” said the brash American, who is nicknamed “Money” for his flamboyant and often extravagant lifestyle. “It’s all about keeping composure and sticking to the game plan.

“We’re going to take our time, go out there and if a guy leaves an opening on his face, we’re going to take it, if he leaves an opening on his body we’re going to take it.

“But we can’t just say we’re going to go in there and everything is going to go to the body. We’re going to take our time and pick the guy apart. I’m naturally the bigger guy because I’ve been at 147 almost 10 years now.”

Maidana, 30, has an impressive professional record of 35-3 with 31 knockouts and oozed confidence ahead of Saturday’s fight while readily conceding he is a big underdog.

“I know people think I’m going to lose, but I come to win and I’m not afraid of anybody or anything,” said the Argentine. “I have the support of the Latino people and I’m coming to win.”

Saturday’s fight, scheduled for 12 rounds, will unify the WBC welterweight title held by Mayweather and Maidana’s WBA welterweight crown.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Ayrton Senna remembered: Formula One, fans pay tribute 20 years on

 

They thronged the track to observe a minute’s silence at the Tamburello corner at 2.

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17 p.m., the moment the Brazilian’s Williams ploughed into the wall while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Many carried flags and some pointed to the sky, as Senna did when he won, in remembrance before breaking into applause when the minute ended.

Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger had died the day before Senna, when he crashed during qualifying, and the two remain the last driver fatalities during a grand prix weekend.

The circuit near Bologna was opened to the public with tribute events scheduled in Imola, including a memorial football match and the naming of a square, over the next four days. According to organisers, some 20,000 people attended on Thursday.

A mass, attended by Ratzenberger’s parents, was held on Wednesday night.

“It’s so emotional for us because it’s a long time and still the love from the people is very alive,” Senna’s niece Paula, representing the family, told Reuters Television.

“It seems like Ayrton is living inside people’s hearts, so it’s beautiful.”

Current Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, as well as Senna’s friend and former McLaren team mate Gerhard Berger, were among those present at the track named after the late Enzo Ferrari and son Dino.

“For me he was an idol. I was a kid who rode karts, and back then I watched the news and saw that it was always him winning with his yellow helmet on,” said double world champion Alonso, who was 12 when Senna died. “That was what hit me the most.

“I had his poster on my wardrobe and it’s a shame that I never got to know him or race against him, but the number of people here at Imola… is a testament to his impact. He will always be immortal.”

Senna’s favourite Sao Paulo soccer team Corinthians donned replicas of his distinctive yellow, green and black helmet before the start of a Cup match against Nacional in Manaus on Wednesday.

Social media was flooded with tributes, recollections and an outpouring of affection for a driver held up as one of the greatest of champions, if not the greatest.

“He was the best and most charismatic race driver F1 has ever had,” said Austria’s triple champion Niki Lauda, now non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team. “He had personality, he was fast and he had charisma. No wonder that he won everything.”

Italian MotoGP great Valentino Rossi spoke on Twitter of Senna as “an inspiration, and even if 20 years have passed his spirit lives on in all racing riders and drivers.”

Jean Todt, the president of the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA), said in an address delivered on his behalf that the fight to improve safety would never cease and there could be no complacency.

“No matter how secure we may feel that injuries and fatalities are a thing of the past, the battle for completely safe racing is never won,” he said.

“The untimely deaths of these two superb sportsmen served as a wake-up call for all of us,” added the Frenchman.

“Perhaps the greatest legacy of Ayrton and Roland is that in the wake of that dark weekend in 1994, the pursuit of safer motor sport, in all its forms, received greater impetus than ever before.”

 

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Stubborn Benfica hold Juventus to reach Europa final

Jorge Jesus’s side will return to Turin on May 14 to take on Sevilla in the final after restricting the Serie A leaders to a handful of chances, despite having to play for 23 minutes of the second leg clash with 10 men after Enzo Perez was sent off.

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“We managed the advantage we had from the first leg really well and we deserve to be in the final because we were better than Juventus,” said Benfica coach Jesus.

The Portuguese side will be hoping to win their first continental title since 1962’s European Cup triumph, since when they have lost seven finals, including last season’s Europa League showpiece to Chelsea.

Juventus failed to take advantage of their territorial superiority in the first half or the extra man after the sending-off and their exit is a blow for Italy, whose teams have struggled on the continent in recent years.

DEFENSIVE MINDSETJuventus coach Antonio Conte was annoyed with the away side’s defensive mindset and English referee Mark Clattenburg, who he felt should have given a penalty against Luisao for appearing to block Fernando Llorente’s 65th-minute header with his hand.

“They’re going through to the final, but I don’t think they deserved it,” said an irritated Conte.

“The only thing we missed was a goal. Over the course of the two legs we conceded two shots on target. We tried but tonight but we didn’t have the run of the ball.”

Benfica came roaring out of the blocks looking for the goal that would have left their hosts a mountain to climb, with Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner blocking Rodrigo’s stinging close-range strike in the opening minute. Juve slowly gained control as the first half wore on and Vidal was unlucky not to give his side the lead seconds before the break when he met Kwadwo Asamoah’s fizzing cross with a header that was cleared off the line by Luisao. The away side gave Juve a scare two minutes after the break when Rodrigo ballooned the ball over the bar from close range with the goal at his mercy. Perez was sent off after receiving a second booking for a silly foul on Arturo Vidal and his dismissal encouraged Juve to push forward in search of the goal that would have sent them into the final.

The home fans were celebrating with nine minutes remaining when Osvaldo tapped home Paul Pogba’s headed knockdown, but their joy was short-lived, with officials correctly ruling Frenchman Pogba offside.

Unused Juventus substitute Mirko Vucinic and Benfica’s Lazar Markovic, who had been taken off with minutes remaining, both received red cards for an off-pitch altercation as the bad-tempered match wound to a close.

Benfica were reduced to nine men after Ezequiel Garay was stretchered off during eight dramatic minutes of stoppage time and the Portuguese side’s keeper Jan Oblak made a fine save to keep out Martin Caceres’s header.

“Tonight we saw that in football the best team doesn’t always win,” Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci said.

(Reporting by Terry Daley; editing by Toby Davis)