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La Liga: Real Madrid return to top, Barca and Atletico drop points

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MADRID, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) — Real Madrid enjoyed a comfortable 4-1 win at home to Villarreal to return to the top of La Liga, but risk losing defender David Alaba for an extended period after he was carried off in the first half with what appeared a serious knee injury.

Madrid took advantage of the fact that Girona don’t play Alaves until Monday, with Jude Bellingham putting them ahead in the 24th minute with a header from a Luka Modric cross.

Rodrygo then doubled their lead from close range following a corner, with a goal initially chalked off for offside but reinstated after a VAR check.

As well as Alaba’s injury, Villarreal also lost two players, with Gerard Moreno limping off after a collision with Alaba, and Alex Baena injured after a challenge from Lucas Vazquez.

Jose Luis Morales pulled a goal back for Villarreal 10 minutes after the break, finding space between Nacho Fernandez, who had replaced Alaba, and Antonio Rudiger.

Brahim Diaz quickly re-established Madrid’s two-goal lead with an individual effort that saw him beat three defenders before scoring with a low shot.

Luka Modric added a fourth after Rodrygo latched onto a dreadful Etienne Capoue backpass to set him up in the penalty area.

Real Sociedad and Real Betis drew 0-0 in a very even game which either side could have won.

Both sides hit the woodwork and Real Sociedad had three goals correctly ruled out for offside in a game that was more entertaining that the scoreline indicates.

On Saturday, FC Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw away to Valencia with another disappointing performance.

Joao Felix put Barca ahead in the 55th minute after a brilliant pass from Frenkie de Jong allowed Raphinha to set him up, but Hugo Guillamon leveled for Valencia with an excellent curling shot, and Valencia keeper Giorgi Mamardashvili also made several acrobatic saves to keep the scores level.

Athletic Bilbao celebrated their 125th anniversary with a brilliant 2-0 win at home to Atletico Madrid thanks to second-half goals from Gorka Guruzeta and Nico Williams, who curled a delicious shot past Jan Oblak.

The scoreline does not tell the whole story, as Nico and Inaki Williams both hit the post, while Oihan Sancet missed a penalty and Oblak made several vital stops to keep the score down as Atletico were completely outplayed.

Sevilla sacked coach Diego Alonso almost directly after the final whistle of their disastrous 3-0 defeat at home to Getafe.

Penalties from Borja Mayoral and Mason Greenwood and a 37th-minute shot from Jaime Mata gave Getafe three easy points against a Sevilla side that failed to win in eight league and four European games with Alonso in charge.

Jorgen Strand Larsen’s backheeled goal in the 19th minute gave third-from-bottom Celta Vigo a vital 1-0 win at home to second-from-bottom Granada and possibly saved Rafa Benitez’s job as coach.

The bad news for Celta was the red card shown to Iago Aspas for a cynical challenge from behind with 11 minutes left to play.

Cadiz’s point in a 1-1 draw away to Las Palmas means Celta remain in the bottom three, but level on points with Sevilla. Pejino put Las Palmas in front with a powerful stop after seven minutes, but Chris Ramos saved a deserved point for Cadiz with an 83rd-minute header, although they remain without a win since September 1.

Almeria remain bottom of the table and winless, but did at least pick up their fifth point of the season after a painful 0-0 draw at home to Mallorca in a game where the visitors had 20 shots, but only managed to get two on target.

Raul Garcia’s 95th-minute header allowed Osasuna to end a run of six games without a win with a 1-0 win at home to Rayo Vallecano on Friday night.

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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