SPORTS NEWS IN BRIEF
La Liga awards
MADRID - Ahead of January's Ballon D'Or award Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shared the spoils in the Spanish soccer league's season awards on Monday. Messi was named La Liga's "best player" of the 2012/13 season and best forward at the event held in Madrid, while Ronaldo won the MVP gong that recognises "the player who has had the most impact on his club".
MADRID - Spanish La Liga's bottom side Real Betis have fired coach Pepe Mel and replaced him with Juan Carlos Garrido. "Real Betis, due to the delicate sporting situation which the team finds itself in and the necessity to change the dynamic of results, communicates its decision to relieve Pepe Mel of his functions," said Betis in a statement.
MADRID - Spanish financial regulators on Monday fined four football clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona millions of euros for allegedly breaking the rules on the sale of television rights. The National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) handed out fines totalling 15 million euros ($F38 million) for "a very serious infraction" of the rules on the acquisition of football-related rights, it said.
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil has decided against opening more routes for foreign air carriers for next year's World Cup, certain it can handle the millions of sports fans who will use aeroplanes to get around South America's biggest country. Civil Aviation Secretary Wellington Moreira Franco said the idea of expanding routes for foreign carriers "was never considered".
CHICAGO - South Korea will visit the US for a February 1 international friendly, their first meeting since 2002 coming in an early tune-up for next year's World Cup in Brazil. The US Soccer Federation announced on Monday that the match would be staged at the suburban home of Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy.
Serie A race
MILAN - Gonzalo Higuain hit a brace as Napoli crept closer to second-placed Roma in Italy's Serie A with a 4-2 win away to Lazio on Monday. Napoli's 10th win left them in third spot but after Roma's fourth consecutive draw on Sunday, Rafael Benitez's men are now only three points behind the Giallorossi and six off leaders Juventus.
NZ on top
DUNEDIN - Half-centuries to openers Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton have put New Zealand in control at tea on the opening day of the first Test against the West Indies at the University Oval in Dunedin. Rutherford made a rapid 62 while Fulton was more sedate in making 61 as the Black Caps reached 3-194 at the interval.
WELLINGTON - NRL Auckland Nines organisers have announced tweaks to traditional rugby league rules for the inaugural tournament in February — including the introduction of five-point tries. The two-day tournament at Eden Park will feature five-point tries awarded to teams who score in a "bonus zone" in the in-goal area between the goal posts.