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La Liga: Real Madrid beat Mallorca to lead table, Girona edge Atletico in thriller

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MADRID, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) — Real Madrid reached the halfway point of the season as leaders of La Liga with 48 points after a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Mallorca on Wednesday night.

Antonio Rudiger’s header from Luka Modric’s 78th minute corner gave Madrid the points as they struggled to break down a well-organized rival.

Mallorca hit the woodwork through Antoinio Sanchez in the first half, and Samu Costa also hit the post for the visitors, before Brahim headed against the bar for Real Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side pinned Mallorca further back as the game progressed and Rudiger’s header finally brought relief to the fans in the Santiago Bernabeu.

Girona remain level on points after an incredible 4-3 win at home to Atletico Madrid, who looked like taking a point thanks to a fine hat-trick from Alvaro Morata.

Girona got off to a flying start with Valery Fernandez’s goal in the third minute. But Morata beat the offside trap to level for Atletico 10 minutes later.

Girona took control of the ball and Savio’s volley from outside of the area got them back ahead and Daley Blind followed in at the far post to make it 3-1 in the 38th minute.

Morata dragged Atletico into the game with an individual goal in the 43rd minute and then had a goal ruled out for offside before the break.

The Spain striker did finish his hat-trick in the 53rd minute, running onto a pass from Rodrigo de Paul and clipping the ball over Pablo Gazzaniga to make it 3-3.

Atletico looked the more likely to sneak a win, but Ivan Martin won the game for Girona in injury time, collecting a pass from Portu, jinking past two defenders and firing past Jan Oblak in the Atletico goal to send the home fans wild and leave Atletico 10 points behind the top-two.

Elsewhere, Williot Swedberg scored a 96th minute goal to give Celta Vigo a 2-1 win at home to Betis, which lifts Rafael Benitez’s side out of the bottom three.

Aitor Ruibal finished from inside the area to give Betis a sixth minute lead, but Iago Aspas’ 16th minute penalty leveled the score.

Both sides had chances in the second half, with Celta seeing an 87th minute effort ruled out for a prior foul by Aspas after a long VAR check, before Swedberg ran clear and kept his nerve to round Rui Silva and slide the ball into an empty net.

Granada claimed their second win of the season with a 2-0 win at home to Cadiz thanks to goals from Myrto Uzuni and Bryan Zaragoza. The defeat drops Cadiz into the relegation zone and their day was made even worse by Ruben Soriano’s 56th minute sending off.

On Tuesday, Real Sociedad drew 1-1 at home to Alaves, while Rayo Vallecano won 2-0 away to Getafe and Valencia enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 victory at home to Villarreal.

On Thursday, Sevilla will entertain Athletic Bilbao, Osasuna will face Almeria, and FC Barcelona play away to Las Palmas, knowing they have to win to keep in touch with Real Madrid and Girona.

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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