The drive to raise women’s soccer attendance in England is taking on a more persuasive tone, almost obliging supporters of the men’s game to see the quality on offer. The Women’s Super League campaign — “a true fan supports their whole club” — contributed to record attendances Sunday as the post-World Cup boom continues in England. “It’s quite edgy and a little bit sort of punchy,” Kelly Simmons, director of the women’s professional game in England, said at Tottenham, which drew a WSL record crowd of 38,262 for the visit of Arsenal. While hostilities between the north London rivals go back around 130 years in the men’s game, this was their first WSL derby. “It was incredible to be part of it,” said Arsenal captain Kim Little, who broke the deadlock in the 66th minute before Vivianne Miedema sealed a 2-0 victory to stay third in the 12-team WSL. The crowd surpassed the 31,213 at Manchester City for the visit of Manchester United on the opening weekend of the season in September. There has been an upward trajectory in attendances since the Women’s World Cup when England reached a second successive semifinal in July. The cumulative crowd across six WSL games on Sunday was 74,247, taking the total after six rounds to 184,926. The figure across the entirety of last season was 107,141. The increased following has been helped by clubs using their main stadiums, like Tottenham’s slick new 61,000-capacity venue that opened in March. Anfield was used for the Merseyside derby on Sunday and 23,500 fans saw fresh struggles for two-time WSL champion Liverpool.
Portugal, England advance
Cristiano Ronaldo will have to wait a little longer for his 100th international goal, scoring only once as defending champion Portugal secured its place at next year’s European Championship with a 2-0 win at Luxembourg. The Juventus star needed two goals for a century, but could only bundle the ball in from inches out near the end of a closely-contested match on a bumpy and muddy field far removed from the pristine surfaces Ronaldo usually plays on. It moved Ronaldo 10 goals behind former Iran striker Ali Daei, who with 109 goals is the only player to have outscored him on the international stage. There was a century elsewhere, as France coach Didier Deschamps celebrated his 100th game in charge with a 2-0 win at Albania. It ensured France finished top of Group H ahead of Turkey, which won 2-0 at Andorra. Group A winner England had already sealed its place and took its whopping goal tally to 37 in eight games with a 4-0 win at Kosovo, thanks to a late flurry of goals after Harry Winks’s first-half opener.
In the other Group A game, Bulgaria beat Czech Republic 1-0 in Sofia thanks to a second-half goal from defender Vasil Bozhikov.
Alabama fifth in AP poll
Georgia edged past Alabama to No. 4 in the Associated Press college football poll after the Bulldogs had a quality road victory and the Crimson Tide lost star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the season. LSU remained No. 1 in the AP Top 25, receiving 54 first-places votes. No. 2 Ohio State (five first-place votes) and No. 3 Clemson (three first-place votes) maintained their spots. Georgia moved up one place after winning, 21-14, at Auburn . . . Senior Tanner Jameson scored his first collegiate goal when he headed home the game-winner with 34 seconds remaining to lift Tufts over visiting WPI, 2-1, and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division 3 tournament. Jivan Purutyan scored for the Engineers (13-4-4) in the first half, and Calvin Aroh tied the game for the Jumbos (16-2-2) in the 54th minute . . . Claire Wilkinson and Sophie Lloyd scored in the final 20 minutes as the Tufts women’s soccer team (14-3-2) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005 with a 2-0 victory over The College of New Jersey (17-2-1) in Ewing, N.J. . . . In NCAA Division 3 field hockey, Izzy Thompson scored 58 seconds into overtime lifting host Johns Hopkins (19-2) to a 2-1 victory over Tufts and into the Final Four. Beth Krikorian had tied the game for Tufts (15-5) with 6:30 remaining in the fourth quarter . . . In men’s basketball, Christian Vital scored 15 points and made a key steal at the end of the game as host UConn upset No. 15 Florida, 62-59. Tyler Polley also scored 15 points and Josh Carlton added 13 for the Huskies (2-1) who led by 5 points at halftime and never trailed after intermission . . . Jordan Minor tossed in 15 points off the bench to carry Merrimack to a 54-44 win over Jacksonville at the River Hawk Invitational. Jaleel Lord had 13 points for Merrimack (3-2).
Tsitsipas wins ATP title
Stefanos Tsitsipas rallied to beat Dominic Thiem, 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 7-6 (7-4), to become the youngest ATP Finals champion in 18 years and collect the biggest title of his career. The 21-year-old Greek bounced back from dropping a tight first set in the final by racing out to a 4-0 lead in the second, and then held off his Austrian opponent’s comeback in the third. He is the youngest champion at the ATP Finals since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001. It is the fourth year in a row that there is a first-time champion at the ATP Finals, following Andy Murray in 2016, Gregor Dimitrov in 2017, and Alexander Zverev last year.
Fleetwood takes Nedbank
Tommy Fleetwood made three eagles and came from six shots behind to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge in a playoff. Fleetwood beat Marcus Kinhult on the first extra hole at Sun City, South Africa, for a fifth European Tour victory and his first at the Nedbank. The Englishman made par and Sweden’s Kinhult a bogey in the playoff . . . Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won Formula One’s Brazilian Grand Prix for his eighth career victory in a race that ended disastrously for both Ferrari drivers. Verstappen controlled nearly all the race at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, which saw a dramatic late collision between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc when they fought for the fourth position. Both failed to finish. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly got his first F1 podium after finishing second ahead of six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver was third but faces an investigation after an incident that caused Red Bull’s Alexander Albon to spin.