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Top 100 sporting moments of 2023: 90-81

Sports Mole counts down the 100 greatest sporting moments of 2023, continuing with numbers 90 to 81.

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 90 to 81.

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



90. Brooks Koepka wins US PGA Championship (May 21)

Brooks Koepka poses with the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club on May 21, 2023© Reuters

Having missed out despite at one point holding a four-shot lead at The Masters in April, Brooks Koepka's US PGA Championship triumph had an air of redemption about it as he claimed the Wanamaker Trophy for a third time.

The 33-year-old held off challenges from Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland to finish on nine-under at Oak Hill Country Club in New York, and in doing so joining legendary duo Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only men to win the title three times in the stroke-play era.

It was also Kopeka's first major since 2019 and his fifth overall, although perhaps more significantly in the grand scheme of the things, it was the first major won by a golfer from the LIV Tour.



89. Iga Swiatek wins second successive French Open (June 10)

Iga Swiatek (POL) celebrates with the championship trophy after winning the French Open final against Karolina Muchova (CZE) on day 14 at Stade Roland-Garros on June 10, 2023© Reuters

Karolina Muchova had enjoyed a dream run at the French Open by making it all the way to the final, defying her ranking as 43rd seed and defying the doctors who had advised her to quit last year due to injuries.

However, in the final she came up against the recent dominant force in women's tennis at Roland Garros, and sure enough Iga Swiatek proved to be one hurdle too far for the Czech player.

The underdog made a match of it, though, battling back from a set and 3-0 down to take it all the way and even being in pole position to claim the title after breaking to make it 4-3 in the decider.

Swiatek reeled off three successive games right when she needed it the most, though, sealing a hard-fought 6-2 5-7 6-4 victory for a third French Open title in the last four years, and a fourth Grand Slam overall.

The victory also saw the top seed become the first woman to successfully defend her title on the Paris clay since Justine Henin in 2007.



88. Faith Kipyegon makes history at World Athletics Championships (August 26)

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon after winning the women's 1500m at the World Athletics Championships on August 22, 2023.© Reuters

Faith Kipyegon was already enjoying a dream year heading into the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, having broken the world records in the 1,500m, mile and 5,000m already in 2023.

As such, she was heavily fancied to become the first woman to ever win both the 1,500m and 5,000m races at a single World Championships - and that is exactly what she did.

The Kenyan surged clear of Netherlands' Sifan Hassan on the home straight to record a time of 14:53.88 in the 5,000m, four days after also claiming gold in the 1,500m.

The achievements further underlined Kipyegon as perhaps the greatest female middle distance runner of all time as she took her medal tally up to four World Championship golds and two World Championship silvers to add to her two Olympic golds.



87. Michael van Gerwen wins record seventh Premier League title (May 25)

Having withdrawn from the final weekly round of the competition with a shoulder injury, defending champion Michael van Gerwen's very participation in the Premier League Finals night was in doubt.

However, the dominant Dutchman showed no sign of injury as he beat world champion Michael Smith 10-8 in a thrilling semi-final before stepping things up another notch in the final.

Van Gerwen was supreme on his way to a 11-5 victory over Gerwyn Price at the O2 Arena, finishing with a 105.4 average to leave the Welshman powerless to resist.

The title was Van Gerwen's seventh in the last 11 years, taking him past the great Phil Taylor as the most successful player in the competition's history.



86. Historic results in Rugby World Cup pool stage

Fiji beat Australia at Rugby World Cup (September 17)

Fiji players huddle as they celebrate after the match on September 17, 2023© Reuters

On the face of it, Fiji beating Australia should not be a big enough shock to have a place on this list; after all, Fiji went into the Rugby World Cup as the highest-ranked team in Pool C, above both the Wallabies and Wales.

That ranking was largely boosted by a historic victory over England in the build-up to the tournament, though, and while the very recent history may have been slightly in Fiji's favour against Eddie Jones's terribly out-of-form side, any tier two nation beating a tier one team will always be regarded as a major surprise.

Fiji had come close to producing an incredible comeback to beat Wales one week earlier, but their defeat made the Australia match a must-win, and this time they did claim a significant scalp with a 22-15 victory in Saint-Etienne.

It was the first time Fiji had ever beaten the two-time champions at the Rugby World Cup, the first time they had done so in any meeting for 69 years - having lost 17 of the previous 18 Tests - and only the third time they had won this fixture in their history.

Portugal produce historic win over Fiji (October 8)

Portugal's Pedro Bettencourt and Rodrigo Marta celebrate after the match on October 8, 2023© Reuters

Not many people would have earmarked the final pool match of the 2023 Rugby World Cup - Fiji vs. Portugal - as one of the standout fixtures of the tournament, but as it happened it provided a fittingly dramatic end to a captivating group stage.

There was still something riding on the match with Fiji needing one point at least to book their place in the quarter-finals - an outcome which would also see Australia fail to reach the knockout rounds at a World Cup for the first time ever.

Fiji did ultimately get that solitary point, but the day was all about Portugal as they pulled off their first-ever Rugby World Cup win in thrilling fashion.

Os Lobos twice let seven-point leads slip in the second half, and Fiji looked to have survived a scare when they edged six points ahead with only minutes remaining.

However, a last-gasp Rodrigo Marta try - converted by Samuel Marques - prompted wild scenes of celebration as Portugal produced the greatest moment in their rugby history.

It was bittersweet for Fiji as they suffered a shock defeat but still made it through courtesy of their losing bonus point, while Australia were left to pack their bags.



85. Ross County produce stunning comeback to salvage Scottish Premiership status (June 4)

After narrowly avoiding automatic relegation from the Scottish Premiership, Ross County entered the second leg of their relegation playoff against Partick Thistle once again staring down the barrel of demotion to the second tier.

A 2-0 defeat in the first leg left them needing a memorable comeback at home in the second leg, yet their task was made even tougher when Partick made it 3-0 on aggregate just before half time.

There was no immediate response from Ross County at the start of the second half either, and with 20 minutes left to play, they still needed three unanswered goals just to send the match to extra time.

Football can change very quickly, though, and quickfire goals in the 71st and 72nd minutes suddenly reignited the hope which had appeared to have been extinguished.

County still needed one more, though, and it took until stoppage time for that to arrive as George Harmon made himself the hero with a third goal to level things up on aggregate.

A goalless extra time followed to send the game to penalties, where both teams missed two apiece before Ross County won 5-4 in sudden death, leaving Partick heartbroken and facing another season in the Scottish Championship.



84. Karim Benzema hits Clasico hat-trick as Real Madrid run riot at Camp Nou (April 5)

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema scores their third goal from the penalty spot on April 5, 2023© Reuters

The fifth and final Clasico of the 2022-23 season was set up nicely for Barcelona, who held a 1-0 lead at the halfway stage of their two-legged Copa del Rey semi-final courtesy of victory at the Bernabeu.

Having conceded just one goal in their previous five matches, and incredibly only two in 14 domestic home matches throughout the entire campaign, it looked like a safe lead, but it was obliterated by their fiercest rivals as Real Madrid hit four past Barca for the first time since May 2008, and the first time at Camp Nou since January 1963.

That 5-1 triumph more than 60 years earlier was also the only previous occasion a Real Madrid player had scored a Clasico hat-trick against Barcelona at Camp Nou, but Karim Benzema added his name alongside the great Ferenc Puskas in that exclusive club with a second-half treble, adding to Vinicius Junior's opener right on the stroke of half time.

It was the Ballon d'Or winner's second hat-trick in the space of three days, having also taken home the match ball against Real Valladolid the weekend before - the first time he had netted trebles in successive games and also the first time he had scored a hat-trick in El Clasico.

It was also Madrid's biggest win over Barcelona since the 5-0 triumph in January 1995, and more importantly took them through to the Copa del Rey final.



83. Simone Biles returns to lead USA to record seventh successive world title (October 4)

Simone Biles pictured on October 4, 2023© Reuters

After two years away from international competition to work on her mental health, all eyes were on the great Simone Biles when the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships arrived in Antwerp.

The four-time Olympic gold medallist did not disappoint either, producing a typically brilliant floor routine to lead the US to an unprecedented seventh consecutive title in the women's team event.

Their score of 167.729 saw them beat first-time medallists Brazil (165.530) and France, whose 164.064 secured a first worlds team medal since 1960, to top spot on the podium.



82. Lionel Messi landmarks

700th career club goal (February 26)

Paris Saint Germain's (PSG) Lionel Messi scores their second goal on February 26, 2023© Reuters

One night before being crowned the best player in the world yet again at The Best FIFA awards, Lionel Messi delivered another landmark which underlined his status as one of the greatest of all time too.

A tap-in from Kylian Mbappe's low cross against Marseille brought up club goal number 700 in Messi's remarkable career, with 28 of those coming for Paris Saint-Germain and a record 672 for Barcelona.

In doing so, Messi joined his perennial rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the only players to score 700 goals in European club football, with Ronaldo having reached the milestone for Manchester United earlier in the season.

However, Ronaldo soon left for Saudi Arabia with 701 European club goals to his name, leaving Messi with that next target immediately in his sights.

800th career goal (March 23)

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their second goal with Rodrigo De Paul on March 23, 2023© Reuters

While the 2022 World Cup was largely billed as Lionel Messi's final shot at the biggest prize of all, once he had won the trophy the narrative began to change, with suggestions that he could even still be around to defend his title in 2026.

Certainly, there was no immediate retirement, and the Paris Saint-Germain star was back setting major milestones in his country's first match since been crowned world champions in Qatar.

Already Argentina's leading appearance-maker and goalscorer, Messi netted a trademark sublime free kick in a friendly against Panama to bring up his 99th international goal, and more significantly the 800th goal of his legendary career for club and country.

The latest milestone came less than a month after he scored goal number 700 of his club career, which proved to be the beginning of a prolific run of significant milestones.

100th international goal (March 29)

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their second goal on March 23, 2023© Reuters

Just a few days after scoring his 800th career goal, Lionel Messi became only the third man to bring up a century of international goals with his first against Curacao in a friendly game.

The landmark moment came 20 minutes into the match, with Messi opening the scoring on the night to join Iran's Ali Daei and his Portuguese perennial rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the only men to reach triple figures in terms of goals at international level.

The World Cup-winning captain is the first South American to achieve the significant feat, and he went on to add a ninth international hat-trick to his tally too.

Messi scored all three of his goals in the space of 17 first-half minutes, while he also helped himself to an assist in the opening 45 minutes as Argentina ran riot before eventually winning 7-0.

1,000th direct club goal involvement (April 8)

Paris Saint-Germain's (PSG) Lionel Messi celebrates scoring their first goal on April 8, 2023© Reuters

Not long after scoring his 700th career club goal and 100th international goal, Lionel Messi chalked up yet another remarkable career milestone in Paris Saint-Germain's 2-0 win over Nice in April.

Throughout the vast majority of his career, you would have had long odds on the former Barca stalwart setting up perennial Clasico rival Sergio Ramos for his 1,000th direct goal involvement in senior club football, but that is exactly what happened on the Southern French coast.

The Argentine's corner was nodded in by the Spaniard for the second of the night and the 298th assist of Messi's legendary career, adding to his 702 goals to see him reach four figures of direct goal involvements in club football.

Messi had started the game on 998 goal involvements and passed another landmark with his side's first of the night, which he scored himself for goal number 702.

That tally saw him surpass Cristiano Ronaldo's previous record tally of 701 European goals to move out on his own in that particular metric too.



81. Cristiano Ronaldo landmarks

Record 197th international cap (March 23)

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring against Liechtenstein on March 24, 2023© Reuters

Already regarded as one of the greats, Cristiano Ronaldo further cemented his name into football folklore by winning his 197th cap for Portugal when they faced minnows Liechtenstein in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier in March.

The appearance saw him move clear on his own ahead of Kuwait's Bader Al-Mutawa as the most-capped men's international footballer of all time, having already established himself as the highest-scoring men's international player too.

True to form, Ronaldo marked the occasion with two more goals to add to his mind-boggling international tally, in the process becoming the first men's player in history to score 100 competitive international goals too.

The Al-Nassr man also ensured that he has now scored in 20 successive years for the Portugal national side, adding more weight to his claim of being the greatest international player ever.

Late winner on 200th international appearance (June 20)

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates on October 13, 2023© Reuters

Cristiano Ronaldo was already the most-capped and highest-scoring player in men's international football history prior to June's European Championship qualifiers, but his star had faded somewhat in Europe since his move to Saudi Arabia last year.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner offered a timely reminder of just why he is one of the greatest players ever, though, netting an 89th-minute winner to see Portugal past Iceland.

It was already a landmark match for Ronaldo as he became the first men's player to ever reach 200 international appearances, marking the occasion with a record-extending 123rd goal.

850th career goal (September 2)

Al Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with teammates after winning the Arab Club Champions Cup final on August 12, 2023© Reuters

Having largely led the Saudi Pro League revolution which turned the 2023 summer transfer window on its head, Cristiano Ronaldo continued to chalk up eye-catching milestones in an Al-Nassr shirt.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner scored the fourth of five goals for his side in a 5-1 thrashing of Al Hazm at the beginning of September, and it was a goal that had much more significance in the wider picture compared to in the game itself.

The strike saw Ronaldo reach 850 goals throughout his legendary career, with 26 of those coming for Al-Nassr following his high-profile switch from Manchester United.

The 38-year-old's tally also consisted of 450 goals for Real Madrid, 145 goals for Man United, 123 for Portugal, 101 for Juventus and five for Sporting Lisbon.



Read more of the countdown here

Top sporting moments of 2023: 100-91
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: 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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Fiji players celebrate after the match on August 26, 2023
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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Real Madrid31246167204778
2Barcelona31217362342870
3GironaGirona31205663392465
4Atletico MadridAtletico31194859362361
5Athletic Bilbao31169651292257
6Real Sociedad311311745331250
7Valencia31138103432247
8Real BetisBetis31111283837145
9Villarreal31109124954-539
10Getafe31912103743-639
11Osasuna31116143644-839
12Las PalmasLas Palmas31107142935-637
13Sevilla31810133944-534
14AlavesAlaves3188152638-1232
15Mallorca31613122536-1131
16Rayo Vallecano31613122538-1331
17Celta Vigo31610153346-1328
18CadizCadiz31413142141-2025
19Granada3138203260-2817
20Almeria31111193062-3214


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