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Top 100 sporting moments of 2023: 50-41

Sports Mole counts down the 100 greatest sporting moments of 2023, continuing with numbers 50 to 41.

The year 2023 has been another hugely eventful one across sport, with countless records set, new ground broken and non-stop drama and controversy along the way.

From World Cups in rugby union, women's football, cricket and netball to rarely-seen feats in darts, formula 1 and MMA, the past year has contained thrills and spills to keep any sports fan entertained, regardless of what they are interested in.

GOATs have been crowned, sporting perfection has been achieved and a plethora of prestigious honours and trophies have been hoisted aloft.

Here, Sports Mole takes on the sizeable task of narrowing the last 365 days down to the 100 greatest sporting moments from across the spectrum, based on a ranking system which takes into account prestige, drama, history, newsworthiness, quality and importance.

So sit back and raise a glass to another historic year of sport with the conclusive list of the 100 greatest moments, continuing with numbers 50 to 41.

SPORTS MOLE'S TOP 100 SPORTING MOMENTS OF 2023

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1



50. Texas Rangers win first-ever World Series (November 1)

The Texas Rangers storm the field after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the World Series on November 1, 2023© Reuters

Few would have predicted a World Series involving the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks this year, but for only the third time in Major League Baseball history, two wildcard teams made it all the way to the end-of-season showpiece.

Both therefore had realistic aspirations of an unlikely title triumph heading into the series, but in the end it was the Texas Rangers who picked up the trophy for the very first time in their 62-year history.

It was fairly straightforward for them too, with a 5-0 win in game five seeing them clinch the best-of-seven series 4-1 and removing them from the list of now five active MLB teams without a World Series crown.

For manager Bruce Bochy it was a fourth World Series title - just the sixth person to achieve that - while shortstop Corey Seager earned the MVP award for a second time in his career.



49. Liverpool beat Man United 7-0 (March 5)

Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring for Liverpool against Manchester United on March 5, 2023© Reuters

There were no trophies on the line, nor was it quite make-or-break in the top-four race when Liverpool welcomed their greatest rivals Manchester United to Anfield on March 5, but pride is often enough to serve up a classic in English football's most famous fixture.

As it was, one team saw their pride shattered while the other produced a performance for the ages, and one that will be spoken about for years to come.

The Red Devils entered the game as favourites in the eyes of many, with Erik ten Hag's side unbeaten in 11 games across all competitions, including victory in the EFL Cup final over Newcastle United at Wembley and a two-legged triumph over La Liga leaders Barcelona.

However, despite picking up their first trophy for six years only seven days earlier, Man United were blown away by Liverpool, who broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute after an even first half and never looked back from there.

Six further unanswered goals followed without reply in the second half as a ruthless Liverpool, who had endured a largely forgettable campaign up to that point and trailed Man United in the table by 10 points, ran riot in front of a delirious Anfield crowd.

Cody Gakpo, Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah all helped themselves to braces, with the latter surpassing Robbie Fowler as Liverpool's all-time leading Premier League goalscorer in the process, netting his 128th and 129th for the club.

Roberto Firmino then capped off the scoring in the week it was confirmed that he would leave the club in the summer, sealing Liverpool's biggest-ever win over their bitter rivals, surpassing a 7-1 triumph which had held that title for 128 years.

It was also Man United's joint-heaviest defeat of all time and the first time they had been beaten 7-0 since 1931, leaving them to lick their wounds following a brutal reality check in an otherwise encouraging campaign.



48. West Ham win Europa Conference League (June 7)

West Ham United's Declan Rice lifts the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after winning the Europa Conference League on June 7, 2023© Reuters

The Europa Conference League has often been derided since it was introduced, but you would have been given short shrift if you tried telling West Ham United and Fiorentina fans that it does not matter as they descended on Prague for the 2022-23 final.

Both teams were looking to end long trophy droughts - Fiorentina had not won anything since 2001, while their solitary European triumph came in 1961; West Ham were trophyless since 1980 and their only major European trophy dated back to 1965.

The Hammers fans travelled in huge numbers for the match - although things turned ugly during the game when Fiorentina captain Cristiano Biraghi was struck by an object thrown from the crowd, leaving blood pouring out of a cut on the back of his head.

That was a sour note on an otherwise glorious night for the East Londoners, though, and they lifted a first trophy for 43 years in the best possible way - with a last-minute winner.

A Said Benrahma penalty had given David Moyes's men the lead, only for Giacomo Bonaventura to quickly respond with an equaliser.

Then, in the 89th minute, Jarrod Bowen was played through on goal and kept his composure to send the West Ham fans into delirium and Moyes sprinting down the touchline.

There was no way back for the Serie A outfit after that as Declan Rice, in his final game for the club, emulated legendary Hammers Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds by lifting a major trophy as captain.



47. Marketa Vondrousova makes history to win Wimbledon title (July 15)

Marketa Vondrousova lifts the Venus Rosewater Dish after beating Ons Jabeur in the Wimbledon final on July 15, 2023© Reuters

Twelve months on from visiting London to watch her friend in Wimbledon qualifying while she herself was sidelined with a cast on her wrist, Marketa Vondrousova found herself in the final at SW19.

The Czech player had already defied all expectations to make it to the Centre Court showpiece, having only won four grass court matches in her career before winning six on the bounce to reach the final.

There was one more upset to come too as she stunned a below-par Ons Jabeur to become the first unseeded player to ever win the women's singles title at Wimbledon, as well as the lowest-ranked player to do so having come into the tournament 42nd in the world.

There were breaks of serve galore between the two, but in the end it was an easier afternoon than Vondrousova would have expected as she ran out a straight-sets winner, 6-4 6-4.

For Jabeur, it was a second successive defeat in the Wimbledon final and a third Grand Slam final loss out of three, and the Tunisian was in tears after the match before defiantly promising to come back and win the title in the future.



46. Ben Stokes heroics in vain as Australia win second Ashes Test (July 2)

Ben Stokes hits a six off the bowling of Australia's Josh Hazlewood on July 2, 2023© Reuters

After a thrilling first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, the second Test at Lord's looked on course to be a more straightforward affair, with England chasing a record target of 371 to win and being reduced to 45-4 on the evening of day four.

Ben Stokes and Ben Duckett led a recovery of sorts to send England into the final day needing 257 to win - the odds still overwhelmingly in Australia's favour.

The hosts needed another miracle from captain Stokes, akin to his legendary match-winning innings in the World Cup final and at Headingley in 2019, and he very nearly provided it too.

After his stand of 132 with Duckett came to an end, Jonny Bairstow came in and made 10 before a hugely controversial stumping that saw him leave his crease believing the ball was dead, only for Australian wicket-keeper Alex Carey to throw the ball at the stumps and dismiss his opposite number.

The TV umpire ruled that it was out by the laws of the game, but England fumed at the perceived flouting of the spirit of the game, and they were vociferously backed up by a furious Lord's crowd - so much so that players from the Australia team had to be held back from members of the esteemed Long Room on their way in for lunch following a confrontation between players and spectators.

By that point, the beast within Stokes had been awoken and he blasted 38 runs from the next 16 balls he faced following the controversy of Bairstow's dismissal, including three successive sixes to go past his century.

With Stuart Broad equally fired up - but more than happy to play the role of supporting act as Australia's bowlers pelted him with short balls - Stokes continued his barrage after lunch, helped by an uncharacteristic dropped catch from Steve Smith.

The pair put on 108 for the seventh wicket to bring a scarcely-believable victory within sight, and they were even made favourites with 70 runs left to get and Stokes still at the crease.

However, a miscue off Josh Hazlewood allowed Carey to catch Stokes out and bring an end to another innings for the ages from the England skipper, who departed on 155 and having clubbed an Ashes-record nine sixes during his one-man demolition job.

With Stokes's departure also effectively went England's hopes of completing their biggest-ever Ashes and Lord's run chase, and Australia eventually mopped up the tail to win by 43 runs and take a 2-0 lead in the series.

However, the game will be remembered most for the Bairstow dismissal and Stokes's innings, both of which will go down in Ashes folklore for years to come.



45. Barcelona produce memorable comeback to win Women's Champions League (June 3)

Barcelona Women's Alexia Putellas lifts the trophy with teammates after winning the Women's Champions League Final on June 3, 2023© Reuters

For Barcelona Women to find themselves in the Women's Champions League final again was no surprise, given that they had appeared in three of the previous four prior to 2022-23.

However, they had only won one of those, and they looked well on course for yet more heartbreak on the biggest stage against a Wolfsburg side who themselves were regular finalists too - this being their sixth in the past decade.

The German outfit made a perfect start through Ewa Pajor's third-minute goal, and looked set to lift the trophy for the first time since 2013-14 when they then doubled their advantage through Alexandra Popp eight minutes before half time.

It looked as though Barcelona's status as firm pre-match favourites in Eindhoven was severely misplaced, but whatever was said in the Spanish dressing room during the interval certainly worked wonders.

Within five minutes of the restart, Barcelona were level again courtesy of a quickfire Patri Guijarro brace, and Fridolina Rolfo then won it with 20 minutes to go.

For Barcelona it was a third trophy of the season, after the league and Spanish Super Cup, and also their second Champions League crown ever, whereas Wolfsburg were left to stomach another defeat in the final, having now been beaten on each of the last four occasions they have reached the showpiece event.



44. La Rochelle break Leinster hearts again (May 20)

La Rochelle players lift the trophy to celebrate winning the European Champions Cup on May 20, 2023© Reuters

For the second year in a row, the biggest game in Northern Hemisphere club rugby pitted Leinster against La Rochelle for the honour of being crowned champions of Europe.

While Leinster fell three points short on French soil 12 months earlier, this time around the match was being played on home turf - the Aviva Stadium in Dublin - raising hopes that they could match Toulouse's record tally of five Champions Cups.

The hosts only bolstered those hopes when they came flying out of the blocks, scoring three tries in the opening 12 minutes - including the quickest try in Champions Cup final history - to open up what seemed like a commanding 17-0 lead over the defending champions.

However, La Rochelle ensured that the drama would last from the first minute to the last with a stunning fightback which saw them limit Leinster to three penalties for the following 68 minutes, while crossing three times to haul themselves back into the match.

Georges-Henri Colombe's late try and the accompanying conversion then nudged the visitors into the lead for the very first time with only eight minutes left to play, and they safely negotiated their way to a 27-26 triumph following a classic final.



43. Jon Jones becomes UFC heavyweight champion (March 4)

Already regarded by many as the greatest UFC fighter of all time, the legendary Jon Jones ended a three-year absence from the octagon by stepping up to heavyweight for the first time in his career at UFC 285 in March.

Just two minutes after the opening bell, the heavyweight debutant was the UFC heavyweight champion of the world.

Jones, whose last appearance in UFC was a successful defence of his light-heavyweight title in February 2020, submitted Ciryl Gane in the first round of the bout to claim the vacant heavyweight belt and become a two-weight world champion.

In doing so, the American became only the seventh man to win UFC world titles at two different weights and only the third to do so at light-heavyweight and heavyweight, after Randy Couture and Daniel Cormier.

Jones also extended his unbeaten record in title fights to 16, further underlining his claim to being the greatest the sport has ever seen.



42. Erling Haaland breaks Premier League goalscoring record (May 3)

Manchester City's Erling Braut Haaland receives a guard of honour from teammates and manager Pep Guardiola at the end of the match after breaking the record for most goals scored in a single Premier League season on May 3, 2023© Reuters

Erling Haaland's debut season in English football saw him smash just about every goalscoring record going, but perhaps the most notable one came during Manchester City's 3-0 win over West Ham United at the start of May.

Trailing Arsenal at the top of the table going into the game, Man City returned to the summit with only five games of their campaign remaining, yet it was their astonishingly-prolific centre-forward who made all the headlines.

Haaland netted his 35th Premier League goal of the season to overtake the 34-goal record jointly held by Andy Cole and Alan Shearer for almost three decades.

The Norway international's achievement was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he reached that record tally in only 31 games, while he had only played the full 90 minutes in 19 of those.

By contrast, Cole and Shearer both racked up their previous landmarks in 42-game seasons, with Haaland having already surpassed Mohamed Salah's record of 32 goals for a 38-game season.

The magic moment came in typically confident fashion too, with Haaland chipping the ball over Lukasz Fabianski to make it 2-0 on the night at the Etihad Stadium.



41. Nikola Jokic inspires Denver Nuggets to first-ever NBA title (June 13)

The Denver Nuggets celebrate winning the NBA title on June 12, 2023© Reuters

After a 47-year wait, the Denver Nuggets finally got their hands on a first-ever NBA title in June, with star man Nikola Jokic stealing the show in the Finals.

Denver had never even reached the Finals before this year, but with the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP Jokic in their ranks they breezed through the playoffs with victories over the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-1), Phoenix Suns (4-2) and Los Angeles Lakers - the latter courtesy of a 4-0 whitewash.

Things were similarly one-sided against Miami Heat in the Finals too, with the Nuggets winning by at least a 10-point margin in three of their opening four games - the exception being a surprise Miami win in Denver in game two.

Game five proved to be slightly closer, but Jokic's 28 points and 16 rebounds propelled Denver to a 94-89 victory and confirmed the Serb as the Finals MVP in the process.

In arguably the most dominant individual playoff campaign ever, Jokic became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in all three of points (600), rebounds (269) and assists (190) in a single post-season.



Read more of the countdown here

Top sporting moments of 2023: 100-91
Top sporting moments of 2023: 90-81
Top sporting moments of 2023: 80-71
Top sporting moments of 2023: 70-61
Top sporting moments of 2023: 60-51
Top sporting moments of 2023: 40-31
Top sporting moments of 2023: 30-21
Top sporting moments of 2023: 20-11
Top sporting moments of 2023: 10-1


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