MARANA, Ariz. -- Its rare to hear Ernie Els describe his week at the Match Play Championship as "wonderful." Hes usually not around long enough to say anything at all. This time, the wacky world of match play is working in his favour. Even though Els has made more bogeys than birdies, even though he didnt break par at Dove Mountain until his quarterfinal match Saturday, the 44-year-old South African is two matches away from claiming another World Golf Championship. Els made birdie from the desert on the par-5 eighth hole to take the lead for good against 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, and then pulled away for a 4-and-2 victory to reach the semifinals for the first time in 13 years. "At times I havent played my best, as you guys have well-documented and know," Els said with a laugh. "But its match play. Ive just done enough to get through." Graeme McDowell was the only other player who felt lucky to still be around, only for his luck to run out against Victor Dubuisson of France. McDowell had reached the quarterfinals even though he never led a single hole while any of his previous three matches were in progress. He finally took a lead -- 60 holes into this tournament -- and wound up losing. Typical of his week, it went down to the wire. Dubuisson hit a beautiful chip from the rough in front of a corporate suite behind the 16th green to save par, while McDowell missed a 6-foot putt to lose the hole. Dubuisson saved par with another superb chip behind the 17th green, and had one more in his bag from below the 18th green to save yet another par. McDowell narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt that would have extended the match. "Lucky, lucky to even be here today," McDowell said. "But actually played quite nicely most of the day. It all boiled down to my putter actually let me down. I had a chance on 14 for the hole, chance on 15 for the hole, missed a short one on 16. My luck is going to run out sooner than later." Els plays Dubuisson, a rising star in the European ranks who won the Turkish Open, where Tiger Woods finished five shots behind. In other quarterfinal matches: -- Jason Day reached the semifinals for the second straight year with a 2-and-1 win over Louis Oosthuizen, who played with a nagging back injury. -- Rickie Fowler lost a 3-up lead to Arizona grad Jim Furyk, only to win the last two holes for a 1-up victory for a shot at Day. Furyk was in the same spot as Dubuisson on the 18th hole, but his first chip rolled back down the hill toward his feet. Fowler is the No. 53 seed, the highest to reach the semifinals since Zach Johnson was No. 59 in 2006 when it was held at La Costa. Els long held a reputation as a wizard in match play, having captured the World Match Play Championship seven times when it was at Wentworth and featured smaller fields and 36-hole matches. This version hasnt been kind to him. He reached the semifinals in 2001 at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, only to lose to Pierre Fulke. Els didnt imagine it would take this long to get back, though he understands that anything can happen -- and usually does -- over 18 holes of match play. "I really had a love-hate relationship with this event, as you guys well know," he said. "I was lucky enough to get in the field a couple of years ago and beat Luke Donald in the first round. But most of the time, I lost in the first round here either on the 18th or 19th hole. Its been a frustrating time in this event." The semifinals will be Sunday morning, following by the championship match. "Im just very glad to be here on Sunday," Els said. "Hopefully, it goes good tomorrow. I still feel Ive got a really good one in me." Fowler never looked like he would need to go 18th holes the way his match against Furyk started. And then he was happy to get there. Furyk was 3 down with only six holes remaining when he made three straight birdies and won a fourth straight hole at No. 16 with a par when Fowler flubbed a chip. Furyk missed the fairway on the 17th, however, allowing Fowler to square the match. On the 18th, Furyk came up just a fraction short of perfect and saw the ball roll back down the false front of the green. His chip was heavy, and that one rolled back toward his feet and led to bogey. Fowler navigated a quick birdie putt down the slope to a concession range and escaped. "Disappointed," said Furyk, in the quarterfinals for the first time in 14 appearances in this World Golf Championship. "I fought all way back from 3 down. I had all the momentum and I didnt put the ball on the fairway on 17 and didnt put the ball in the fairway on 18. I dont feel I handed the match away, but I definitely made it too easy on him the last two holes." It was the third straight round in which Fowler was trailing with three holes to play, and he pulled out wins against Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia and Furyk. The only easy time Fowler had was against Ian Poulter. "Its nice to get a win no matter how it happens," Fowler said. Akeem Spence Jersey
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." Those traits were clear to the 24,071 at Olympic Stadium on Saturday as the Impact dominated the scoring chances but settled for a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls in a battle of still-winless Major League Soccer teams.Pep Guardiolas Manchester City revolution is under way but is Athletic Bilbaos Aymeric Laporte the answer to their defensive woes? The French defender looks a good fit, writes Nick Wright. Pep Guardiola counts Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa as one of his biggest influences, so perhaps it is not surprising that he shares his idols admiration for Aymeric Laporte. The French centre-back was schooled by Bielsa as a teenager at Athletic Bilbao, and Guardiola is eager to continue his education at Manchester City next season.The new City boss has already made his first signing in midfielder Ilkay Gundogan - and another Borussia Dortmund player, striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, could soon follow, according to Sky sources - but Guardiola has identified central defence as Citys most pressing area in need of attention. Last season, they conceded more Premier League goals (41) than in any of the previous five, with Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala struggling to meet expectations and Vincent Kompany repeatedly falling victim to injuries.Major changes are required, and while Sky sources say Evertons John Stones is also on the wanted list, Laporte appears to be the priority for Guardiola. Citys sporting director Txiki Bergiristain has already flown to Bilbao to discuss the deal with Athletic, and reports in Spain have suggested City are willing to pay his £39m buy-out clause. Laporte on City rumours Aymeric Laporte denied in May that he had agreed to join City but Sky sources confirm he is a target It is a huge sum for a 21-year-old still recovering from a broken leg suffered playing for Frances U21s in March, but he is due to return in August and the feeling in Spain is that he is worth the investment. Laporte has developed a burgeoning reputation over the course of four seasons in Athletics first team and has already amassed over 100 La Liga appearances despite his tender age.Basque journalist Endika Río has followed his progress from the start. He is a central defender with the profile that Pep Guardiola likes, he tells Sky Sports. Hes strong, tall and powerful but what characterises him most is playing out from the back. He makes the central midfielders jobs easier. He has good distribution and he has quality with the ball at his feet. Watch some of Aymeric Laportes best moments for Athletic Bilbao That technical ability is invaluable to Guardiola, whose attacking philosophy requires modern, ball-playing centre-backs who can build quickly and fluently from the back. The role was fulfilled by Gerard Pique at Barcelona and David Alaba at Bayern Munich, and Laporte, it seems, will be the man for the job at Manchester City.A money-spinning transfer to the Etihad would cap a rapid rise for Laporte, who was only 18 when Bielsa promoted him to Athletic Bilbaos first team in November 2012. It was quite a difficult year for Athletic, recalls Río. Javi Martinez had left and they were having trouble renewing Fernando Amorebietas contract, so Bielsa promoted Laporte even though he had hardly played for the reserves. A City ready for Pep The appetite for Pep Guardiola in Manchester will be greater than it ever was in Munich.dddddddddddd Laporte was thrust into the heart of a struggling side, but the 6ft 2ins teenager swiftly established himself as a regular starter in central defence. Bielsa saw characteristics in him that fit with his style of football, says Río. He soon filled the gap left by Amorebieta. He was a boom.Bielsa loved Laporte - I dont remember a single fault I could tell you about, he said in 2015 - and he made 17 appearances before the 60-year-old was replaced by Ernesto Valverde in the summer of 2013. Bielsas gruelling training methods had taken a heavy toll as Athletic finished 12th in 2012/13 but the squad were reinvigorated by Valverde. Laporte, in particular, went from strength to strength. Laporte battles for the ball with Barcelonas Luis Suarez and Marc Bartra Laportes second year in the first team was Valverdes first in charge, says Río. The team finished fourth in La Liga and qualified for the Champions League. Laporte was part of the spine of the team and became the líder of the defence. He was still 19 but no one disputed it despite his age. Bit by bit, he has improved a lot in very little time.Laporte has come out on top in duels with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo since breaking into the Athletic team. He helped them reach the final of last years Copa del Rey and played every minute of their historic 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup in August. Laporte is a great player with every quality. I don’t remember a single fault that I could tell you about. He’s fast, he has character, he is competitive, he has very good technique and he is very intelligent. Marcelo Bielsa on Aymeric Laporte in 2015 Laporte is an accomplished one-on-one defender who doesnt shy away from physical challenges, but he prefers to rely on his fine reading of the game and intelligent positioning rather than gung-ho tackling. He has an excellent range of passing and averages more per game than any other Athletic player with the exception of central midfielder Beñat, while he is also a goal threat, having scored five times this season alone before he was injured in March.As for weaknesses, there is little to cause alarm. In some games you can still see his youth and inexperience, says Río. There have been some errors and he has been sent off for inexperienced fouls, but with time he has got better. You can see that he learns very fast for a player so young, and its not surprising that some of the biggest clubs in Europe want him. Laporte in action for Athletic Bilbao against Espanyol Like Bielsa before him, Valverde is a huge admirer. Hes young and he has to improve some things but hes already the real deal, he said in October. He is a player who is mature, despite his youth. On the pitch you see that because he takes responsibility for his position. Experience is always important, but if you already have that experience when you are 22, then imagine…Laportes rare combination of technical ability, physical prowess and youthful experience has thrust him to the forefront of Manchester Citys plans. Their defensive problems have been costly this season, but as they prepare to usher in a new era at the Etihad Stadium, Bielsas pupil looks ready to make his next step up with Guardiola. 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