The Sports Matrix: Friday 8 April 2011

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FA hopes Rooney ban is a landmark

The FA believes the Wayne Rooney verbal abuse case will be a landmark in the Respect campaign. Ryan Giggs, however, was left “bamboozled” by the upheld two-game ban and Nani believes Rooney was singled out “because he’s a superstar”. MORE

Calls for change as new season begins

Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves has suggested that “I don’t think cricket can realistically sustain 18 counties”, given financial losses last year. The new county season starts today amid claims that a reshuffle is needed to attract new crowds and revenue.

Teenager wins ‘amateur National’

Aintree saluted a precocious ride by 16-year-old Willie Twiston-Davies yesterday. Twiston-Davies rode Baby Run, trained by his father, to success in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, “the amateurs’ National”. MORE

Hughes: Hernandez a ‘fantastic striker’

Mark Hughes, whose Fulham side play a Wayne Rooney-free Manchester United tomorrow, is worried about Javier Hernandez, saying “I have been really impressed with his energy and ability to know which runs to make. He is a fantastic striker.” MORE

Cork: County game is alive and kicking

Dominic Cork is “bursting with excitement” ahead of today’s county season opener. Writing in i, the bowler says: “People knock county cricket. Come and watch it first before sounding off is my message to them. The domestic game is alive and kicking.” MORE

Terry: ‘It’s Chelsea against everyone’

John Terry believes that players are “walking on eggshells” when criticising referees, and proclaimed that with Chelsea, “It’s us against everyone.” Frank Lampard said they were denied “a blatant penalty” against Manchester United on Wednesday. MORE

Ulster growing as European force

In signing Springbok Ruan Pienaar and playing a Heineken Cup quarter final this weekend, Ulster are emerging as a European force. Operations director David Humphreys is “increasingly confident” that it is where “leading names” will look to play. MORE

Mancini defends ‘incredible’ Barry

Roberto Mancini yesterday strongly defended Gareth Barry after Joey Barton said he was a “teachers’ pet”. “Barton’s a good player,” said Mancini, “but Barry is a fantastic man and an incredible player. Everyone would want a player like Barry.” MORE

Draper: judge me in five years’ time

Roger Draper celebrated his fifth anniversary as chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association this week but said he should not be judged on results for another five years. “I’ve always said it takes 10 years to transform a sport,” Draper said yesterday. MORE

Opinion: James Lawton

Once again, momentum in English football now lies with its most remarkable ever manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Should he win either the Premier League or the Champions League it will be a staggering achievement. MORE

McIlroy vaults to top of leaderboard

Rory McIlroy enjoyed a fine opening day in the first major of the year, shooting a seven-under-par score of 65 to head the field in Augusta. The 21-year-old shot seven birdies and no bogeys in glorious sunshine but remained wary of maintaining his form further into the tournament. “It’s possible that I can go out and shoot another 65,” he said. “But it’s very likely [that] I’m not going to do that. So if I do find myself in a bit of trouble, I’m going to have to stick in there and grind it out.” MORE

Portuguese sides dominate at home

Three of last night’s quarter-final first legs resulted in heavy home wins, Benfica (4-1 victors over PSV Eindhoven), Porto (5-1 v Spartak Moscow) and Villarreal (5-1 v FC Twente) all putting one foot in the last four. Braga held Dynamo Kiev 1-1 in the other tie.

Button puts faith in KERS for Malaysia

Jenson Button hopes that McLaren’s KERS system will help them close the gap on Red Bull at Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. “We need a powerful KERS against Red Bull,” he said, “because in every other area they are very competitive.” MORE