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Atletico Madrid, Barca through as group winners in Champions League

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MADRID, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona both advanced to the last-16 of the UEFA Champions League as group winners on Wednesday.

However, Atletico will feel more satisfied of the two after defeating Lazio 2-0, while Barcelona suffered a loss away to Royal Antwerp.

Antoine Griezmann initiated the scoring for Atletico after just six minutes, expertly converting a chance created by Samuel Lino, who skillfully navigated past several challenges down the left before delivering the ball for the Frenchman to score from close to the penalty spot.

Mario Hermoso found the back of the Lazio net in the 39th minute, but the goal was disallowed after the VAR identified Lino in an offside position, directly interfering with the play.

Lino compensated for the disallowed goal by netting Atletico’s second in the 51st minute with an impressive volley, following a setup by Memphis Depay.

The second goal seemingly deflated the Italian side, who required three goals to top the group. In contrast, Atletico enjoyed a comfortable final half-hour of the match.

Barcelona’s progression to the next round as group leaders was certain, but Xavi Hernandez’s search for solace following last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at home to Girona met with disappointment. A 3-2 loss to Royal Antwerp did little to alleviate concerns over a crisis in his team.

A Barcelona squad featuring young Hector Fort at right-back fell behind early to an Arthur Vermeeren goal in the second minute. Although Ferran Torres equalized for Barcelona before halftime, Vincent Janssen regained the lead for Antwerp with a left-foot shot from the center of the Barca area.

Youngster Marc Guiu seemed to have salvaged a point for Barcelona with a 91st-minute header, but just a minute later, George Ilenikhena broke through to beat Inaki Pena with a low shot, granting the Belgian team their inaugural win of the tournament.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Inter celebrate 20th Serie A title in Milan Derby

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ROME, April 22 (Xinhua) — Inter Milan won their 20th Serie A title on Monday, beating AC Milan 2-1 in a derby that witnessed three players sent off in the dying minutes.

With a comfortable 14-point lead over second-placed AC Milan and only six rounds remaining, Inter Milan was poised to secure the Scudetto even before the derby, aiming to repeat their 2021 championship success. Entering the match at San Siro, Inter fielded a strong lineup with Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram leading the attack, while AC Milan opted to bench Olivier Giroud, positioning Rafael Leao as the lone striker.

The Nerazzurri, who had previously overwhelmed their city rivals 5-1 earlier in the season, opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Federico Dimarco’s corner was deftly flicked on by Benjamin Pavard to Francesco Acerbi, who headed it in. Lautaro missed an opportunity to extend the lead shortly afterward, sending the ball over the bar from an unmarked position.

AC Milan had the chance to equalize but Yann Sommer got down well to deny Leao’s strike, while at the other end Thuram’s attempt was inches wide.

Inter Milan doubled the lead straight after the break in a spectacular fashion when a long ball over the top found Thuram, who cut inside and feinted a curler to the far top corner, but instead the Frenchman smashed it with ferocity into the near corner, surprising goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

AC Milan then threw on Giroud and Noah Okafor to strengthen the attack, and their efforts paid off in the 80th minute when Matteo Gabbia’s header was parried onto the post, before Fikayo Tomori headed it into the net.

The match escalated in stoppage time with the dismissals of Denzel Dumfries and Theo Hernandez from Inter and AC Milan, respectively, and soon after, Davide Calabria was also sent off for elbowing Inter’s Davide Frattesi.

In the final moments, even Milan’s goalkeeper Maignan joined the attack, but AC Milan could not prevent Inter from celebrating their victory.

In another key Serie A battle for fourth place, Bologna secured a 3-1 victory over Roma away from home. Oussama El Azzouzi put Bologna ahead with a spectacular bicycle kick, Joshua Zirkzee added to the lead before halftime, and despite Sardar Azmoun’s effort to narrow the deficit, Alexis Saelemaekers’ lob ensured Bologna solidified their hold on fourth place, now seven points clear of Roma, who have a game in hand.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Dortmund stuns Atletico in dramatic Champions League quarters

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BERLIN, April 16 (Xinhua) — Borussia Dortmund turned around a 2-1 first-leg defeat by clinching a hard-earned 4-2 victory over resilient Atletico Madrid in the second leg on home soil on Tuesday.

Dortmund advanced 5-4 on aggregate into the Champions League semifinals.

The BVB immediately went in search of the goal and came close with just three minutes gone when Marcel Sabitzer’s shot from inside the box was blocked by defender Cesar Azpilicueta in the last nick of time.

Two minutes later, Atletico had the golden chance to extend the aggregate lead, but Alvaro Morata pulled wide with only Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel to beat.

Dortmund controlled possession though and got rewarded for their efforts at the half-hour mark when Mats Hummel’s defence-splitting through the ball allowed Julian Brandt to fire past Madrid custodian Jan Oblak from a tight angle.

The hosts gained momentum and doubled the lead in the 39th minute as Sabizter teed up for Ian Maatsen, who slotted home from a sharp angle into the far post bottom corner.

After the restart, Los Colchoneros came out with their guns blazing and restored parity on aggregate with the great assistance of Dortmund veteran Mats Hummels, who accidentally cleared Mario Hermoso’s dangerous header into the wrong goal.

Things went from bad to worse for Dortmund as Atletico increased the pressure before retaking the aggregate lead with 69 minutes gone as Dortmund’s defense couldn’t clear the ball from the area, allowing Angel Correa to hammer the ball into the roof of the net, making it 2-2 on the scoreboards.

Dortmund was flabbergasted but bounced back with two goals in quick succession. First, Niclas Fullkrug made it 3-2 on the scoreboards in the 71st minute after heading home Sabitzer’s pinpoint cross before the Austrian international got his name on the scoreboards as well after unleashing a hammer past Oblak two minutes later.

Atletico opened up and pressed frenetically for a goal, but Dortmund’s defense stood firm to claim the team’s first semi-final since 2013. The BVB will encounter Paris Saint-Germain in the next round.

“I am really happy and proud of the boys. We were the better and more active team today. That is why we deserved to advance into the next round,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.

“We had the chance to draw the game and go ahead in the tie but, when you don’t take advantage of your chances, this happens, even more so in the Champions League,” commented Atletico captain Koke.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Macron says Plan B, Plan C possible for Paris Olympics opening ceremony

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French President Macron revealed contingency plans for the Paris Olympic Games opening ceremony on the River Seine due to potential security risks, including the possibility of relocating to the Stade de France.

PARIS, April 15 (Xinhua) — The organizers have prepared alternatives to staging the highly-anticipated Paris Olympic Games opening ceremony on the River Seine if there are excessive security risks, French president Emmanuel Macron admitted on Monday.

As the countdown to the Olympics reaches the critical 100-day mark, Macron spoke to French broadcasters RMC and BFM TV inside the Grand Palais. While he reiterated his confidence in successfully hosting the ceremony on the Seine, he also acknowledged that alternative plans were under consideration due to potential security challenges.

“If we think there are security risks we’ll have Plan Bs, and even Plan Cs,” he said. “We are preparing them in parallel. We will do an analysis in real time. We have a ceremony which would be limited to the Trocadero and which would therefore not cover the entire Seine.”

Macron also mentioned the possibility of relocating the ceremony to the Stade de France.

“This is what is traditionally done,” he added.

Hosting the opening ceremony in the open urban space was a highly imaginative move by the Paris organizing committee and the local government.

According to the current plan, about 10,500 athletes are expected to travel approximately six kilometers from east to west along the Seine, disembarking near the Eiffel Tower at Trocadero Square for the celebration. An estimated 300,000 spectators are anticipated to watch the event live from both sides of the river.

However, security has been a significant concern from the outset of planning. The increasing risk of potential terrorist attacks is a critical consideration for both the organizing committee and the French government.

The Olympic flame for the Paris Games will be lit on April 16 in ancient Olympia, Greece. April 17 will mark the 100-day countdown to the opening of the Paris Olympics.

The Paris Olympics will take place between July 26 and August 11, followed by the Paris Paralympics from August 28 to September 8.

Source(s): Xinhua

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