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Top 100 sporting moments of 2023: 40-31

Sports Mole counts down the 100 greatest sporting moments of 2023, continuing with numbers 40 to 31.

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 40 to 31.

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



40. Fluminense win first Copa Libertadores title (November 4)

Fluminense players celebrate winning the Copa Libertadores on November 5, 2023© Reuters

Having watched on as their bitter rivals Flamengo were crowned South American champions twice in four seasons - as well as reaching another final in that time - it was finally Fluminense's turn in the Copa Libertadores final this year.

The Rio de Janeiro-based outfit had the advantage of playing the final in their home stadium of the Maracana, although they had never lifted the trophy before and were up against Boca Juniors - six-time champions and a club that had reached the final more often than any other.

Brazilian clubs have dominated the competition in recent years though, and Fluminense continued that trend in dramatic fashion as they claimed their first-ever title via extra time.

German Cano gave the effective home side the lead in the first half before Luis Advincula's equaliser forced the two sides into an extra 30 minutes.

However, John Kennedy wrote his name into Fluminense folklore with the winner in the 99th minute and, while his celebration in the crowd earned him a second yellow card, that did not come back to bite the Brazilian outfit, with Boca also ending the match with 10 men courtesy of Frank Fabra's sending-off for a slap on Nino.

Front and centre of the celebrations was 35-year-old Marcelo, who joined an exclusive group of players to have won both the Champions League and the Copa Libertadores, hailing the latter with his boyhood club as the most important title of his decorated career despite winning the European equivalent five times with Real Madrid.



39. Benfica win record-extending 38th title on final day (May 27)

Benfica pose with the trophy after winning the Primeira Liga on May 27, 2023© Reuters

Benfica will have felt that they should have had the 2022-23 Primeira Liga title sewn up long before the final day, but with three of their four defeats all season across all competitions coming in April, their celebrations were delayed.

Porto were the team waiting in the wings, and any slip-up from Benfica on the final day would have opened the door for their bitter rivals to leapfrog them with a win, courtesy of Porto's superior head-to-head record.

However, unlike others across Europe, Benfica avoided falling at the last hurdle, comfortably seeing off already-relegated Santa Clara 3-0 to seal a record-extending 38th Portuguese top-flight crown.

For their part, Porto did what they could to keep the pressure on with a 3-0 win of their own, but it was not enough to deny Benfica a first title since 2018-19.



38. Luca Brecel wins historic Snooker World Championship title

Mark Selby hits first-ever 147 in World Championship final (April 30)

From Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ray Reardon to Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis, snooker's very best ever had all tried and failed to make a 147 break on the grandest stage - the World Championship final at the Crucible in Sheffield.

However, Mark Selby wrote his name into the history books during this year's tournament by claiming the maximum in the 16th frame of his final against Belgium's Luca Brecel.

The Englishman's achievement was met with a standing ovation as he became the first player to ever make a 147 break in the World Championship final, and only the 10th player ever to do so at the Crucible, regardless of the round.

Kyren Wilson had become the ninth player earlier in the tournament, with the duo joining an exclusive club alongside Cliff Thorburn, Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Mark Williams, Ali Carter, John Higgins and Neil Robertson.

Luca Brecel wins historic snooker World Championship (May 1)

Belgian Luca Brecel had already punched above his weight to become the first-ever player from mainland Europe to reach the final of the snooker World Championship, and he once again found himself as the underdog against four-time champion Mark Selby.

Brecel became the youngest player in the tournament's history in 2012 but had never won a single match at the Crucible heading into 2023, crashing out in the first round five times.

A narrow win over Ricky Walden in round one ended that hoodoo, though, and he went on a fairytale run to the final which included dumping out seven-time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan and launching a record comeback against Si Jiahui.

Brecel led for much of the final too, but was forced to hold off a couple of Selby fightbacks - including the first-ever World Championship final 147 - before eventually winning 18-15 in Sheffield.

The 28-year-old became the first ever player from mainland Europe to lift the trophy, the first overseas player since 2010 and just the fourth non-British winner ever.



37. Australia win Women's T20 World Cup (February 26)

Australia's Meg Lanning celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the ICC Women's Cricket T20 World Cup on February 26, 2023© Reuters

Having already established themselves as one of the most dominant teams in sport, Australia's women's cricket team further underlined their legendary status with victory in the Women's T20 World Cup in February.

Their latest triumph was by no means unexpected given that they were the two-time defending champions and had reached each of the last six finals prior to their trip to South Africa.

Even so, they were forced to negotiate a raucous home crowd as South Africa shocked many to reach their first World Cup final in either men's or women's cricket, with Australia eventually winning by 19 runs.

Beth Mooney starred with an unbeaten 74 as Meg Lanning's side lifted the trophy for the third time in a row and the sixth time in the last seven editions of the tournament, adding the T20 World Cup crown to the 50-over equivalent and Commonwealth Games titles that they already held.



36. Australia beat England to win Netball World Cup (August 6)

Hopes of a first-ever Netball World Cup title were high for England heading into their final against Australia, having already beaten the tournament's top two sides en route to the showpiece event.

A rare win over Australia in the group stage was followed up by victory against New Zealand in the semi-final, earning them another shot at the same Aussie side they had beaten just days earlier.

It was to be a different story second time around, though, as Australia - who have competed in every single Netball World Cup final - showed just why they are the most successful nation in the sport's history.

They ran out comfortable 61-45 winners in the final in Cape Town, securing the trophy for a 12th time out of a possible 16 stretching back to 1963.

England had to make do with the relative disappointment of the silver medal, although that still surpassed expectations and equalled their best-ever result at a World Cup from 1975.



35. Novak Djokovic wins record 23rd Grand Slam at French Open (June 11)

Serbia's Novak Djokovic kisses the trophy after winning the French Open on June 11, 2023© Reuters

With Rafael Nadal absent through injury and Carlos Alcaraz dispatched of in the semi-finals, the stage was set for Novak Djokovic to move out on his own as the most successful male tennis player ever in the final of the French Open.

Casper Ruud stood in his way, and early on it looked as though the underdog might upset the script when he broke at the first available opportunity and raced into a 3-0 lead.

However, Djokovic soon began to show his championship quality, eventually earning a straight-sets 7-6[1] 6-3 7-5 win to rise above Nadal with his 23rd Grand Slam title.

It was also the Serbian's third title at Roland Garros, after 2016 and 2021, making him the first man in history to win the career Grand Slam three times over.



34. Manchester City win Premier League title for third successive season (May 20)

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan lifts the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after winning the Premier League on May 21, 2023© Reuters

Having strung together their seemingly-annual relentlessness at the end of the season, Manchester City hauled Arsenal in with a run of 11 successive wins during the closing months of the Premier League campaign and went into the penultimate weekend knowing that the title was within their grasp.

As it was, they did not even need to play again to wrap things up once and for all, with Arsenal losing against Nottingham Forest to hand Pep Guardiola's men the trophy ahead of their match against Chelsea the following day.

It was a ninth English crown overall and a third successive title for the Citizens, a feat only previously achieved by four clubs in English top-flight history: Huddersfield Town (1924-26), Arsenal (1933-35), Liverpool (1982-84) and Manchester United, who did it twice under Sir Alex Ferguson (1999-2001 and 2007-09).

Five of Man City's nine titles overall had now come in the last six seasons, while seven of them have come since the club was taken over by Abu Dhabi.



33. Chelsea win record fourth successive WSL title (May 27)

Chelsea Women players celebrates with the trophy after winning the Women's Super League on May 27, 2023© Reuters

The 2022-23 WSL title race was the most competitive in the division's history, with Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal all in contention heading into the latter stage of the season.

Those four had been whittled down to two by the final day, which Chelsea entered knowing that their fate was firmly in their own hands - victory over bottom-of-the-table Reading would seal the title, while also relegating their hosts.

Any slip-up would have opened the door for Manchester United to leapfrog them, but there rarely looked like being any danger of that happening as goals from Sam Kerr (2) and Guro Reiten sealed a comfortable 3-0 win.

Man United at least kept up their end of the bargain by beating Liverpool 1-0, although that was not enough to prevent Emma Hayes's side from claiming a fourth successive WSL title - the first team to achieve that feat since the inception of the league.



32. England beat hosts Australia to reach Women's World Cup final (August 16)

Ella Toone celebrates scoring for England Women on August 14, 2023© Reuters

Shocks earlier in the tournament had opened the door for a new - and possibly unexpected - name to be etched onto the Women's World Cup trophy, with all four semi-finalists bidding to reach the showpiece event for the very first time.

For England, they had the sizeable task of taking on the co-host nation Australia, who had welcomed back star player Sam Kerr just in time for the business end of the tournament as they looked to continue their wave of momentum all the way.

However, Sarina Wiegman's side spoiled the party in front of a sell-out crowd at Stadium Australia, running out 3-1 winners to book their place in a first-ever final.

Kerr did have her say in the contest, cancelling out Ella Toone's well-struck opener with a stunning strike of her own, but goals from Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo ensured that it was England celebrating at the final whistle as they moved to within 90 minutes of adding the world crown to the European title they won a year earlier.

In doing so, Wiegman's women became the first England senior football team to reach the final of a World Cup since 1966.



31. Europe retain Solheim Cup in thrilling fashion (September 24)

Europe's Solheim Cup hopes looked bleak very early on when they fell 4-0 down after the very first session, but they recovered from that nightmare start to level things up at 8-8 heading into the 12 singles matches on the Sunday.

As defending champions, Europe knew that six more points would see them retain the trophy, whereas United States needed 14½ points to win possession of the cup for the first time since 2017.

It was set up perfectly, and the final day did not disappoint as Spain's Carlota Ciganda fittingly had the decisive say in her home country, knocking in a two-foot putt on the 17th to beat Nelly Korda and take Europe up to the required 14-point mark.

The day also included a pivotal comeback from Caroline Hedwall as she won five of her last six holes to storm back from three down, while Lexi Thompson's point ensured the scores ended tied at 14-14 for the first time in Solheim Cup history.



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: 50-41
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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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City32227376324473
2Arsenal32225575264971
3Liverpool32218372314171
4Aston Villa33196868491963
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs32186865491660
6Newcastle UnitedNewcastle321551269521750
7Manchester UnitedMan Utd32155124748-150
8West Ham UnitedWest Ham33139115258-648
9Chelsea31138106152947
10Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton321111105250244
11Wolverhampton WanderersWolves32127134651-543
12Fulham33126154951-242
13Bournemouth32119124757-1042
14Crystal Palace3289153754-1733
15Brentford3388174758-1132
16Everton3298153248-1627
17Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest3379174258-1626
18Luton TownLuton3367204670-2425
19Burnley3348213368-3520
20Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd3237223084-5416


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