Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca

Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca
Barcelona's Polish forward #09 Robert Lewandowski (C) vies with Napoli's Brazilian defender #05 Juan Jesus (L) during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first Leg football match between Napoli and Barcelona at the Diego-Armando-Maradona stadium in Naples on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca

Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca
  • Nigeria forward Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left of the first leg at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona

NAPLES, Italy: Victor Osimhen made a special return to action for Napoli on Wednesday as his goal gave the Italian champions a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Nigeria forward Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left of the first leg at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in his first match since returning from the African Cup of Nations.
The 25-year-old equalized Robert Lewandowski’s 60th-minute opener, which seemed likely to be the decisive goal as Barca were for long periods the better team, with Napoli’s first and only shot on target.
Osimhen had last played for Napoli in a 2-0 defeat at Roma just before Christmas, when he was one of two players from his team to be sent off.
His ninth club goal of the season came at a crucial time, not just in the match but in Napoli’s campaign as they play under their third manager of the season in Francesco Calzona.
Calzona had less than 48 hours to prepare for his first match in charge after replacing Walter Mazzarri on Monday night, and Osimhen gave Napoli a chance of progressing despite a disjointed performance by his team.
Napoli head into next month’s second leg in the Catalan capital knowing that they with Osimhen in the team there is always a chance of a goal regardless of the overall team display.
For Barca meanwhile it was the latest misstep of a complicated campaign at the end of which coach Xavi will leave, assuming president Joan Laporta doesn’t sack the coach before then.
The away side had the better chances but couldn’t put Napoli away and could yet pay for their wastefulness.
Barca showed why they were pre-match favorites in the opening exchanges, dominating the ball and creating shooting opportunities which dulled an initially raucous crowd.
Teen sensation Lamine Yamal come close to becoming the Champions League’s youngest ever scorer when his ninth-minute effort was well-saved by Alex Meret.
In the 23rd minute, the away side twice went close to taking the lead, Lewandowski’s flicked finish kept out by Meret who then tipped away Ilkay Gundogan’s long-range rocket.
From that point on Napoli’s presence in the game grew, but the hosts failed to let off a single effort on goal before the break despite pushing their opponents on back.
Gundogan forced another smart save from Meret shortly after the restart after being put through by Yamal before blasting over another presentable chance.
Barca had the lead their performance deserved on the hour when Lewandowski collected Pedri’s pass and drilled a perfect low finish past Meret.
With the away side looking like they would push home their advantage, Osimhen pounced as Inigo Martinez slipped on the edge of the area to level the scores and transform the atmosphere in the stadium.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and substitute Giovanni Simeone both had efforts off target with the home side’s tails up, but it was Barca who went inches away from snatching a late win.
Gundogan’s frustrating night in front of goal continued deep into stoppage time as his low effort flew just wide.


Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six

Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six
Updated 16 April 2024
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Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six

Palmer scores four as improving Chelsea hit Everton for six
  • Palmer killed the game as a contest as he completed his hat-trick inside 30 minutes before Nicolas Jackson also struck before half-time

LONDON: Cole Palmer scored four goals to put Chelsea within touching distance of the Premier League’s top six after a 6-0 win over Everton on Monday.
The England international has been a shining light in an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Blues and moved level with Manchester City striker Erling Haaland’s 20 Premier League goals in the race for the Golden Boot.
Palmer killed the game as a contest as he completed his hat-trick inside 30 minutes before Nicolas Jackson also struck before half-time.
A penalty from Palmer and Alfie Gilchrist’s first goal for his boyhood club rounded off the scoring in the second half.
Despite an eight-game unbeaten Premier League run, Chelsea remain in ninth but are now just three points adrift of sixth-placed Newcastle with a game in hand to come.
And they will head into Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal against City confident they can end the holders’ quest for a second consecutive treble.
A demoralizing defeat leaves Everton still perilously placed just two points above the relegation zone.
The Toffees appealed against a two-point penalty for breaking Premier League sustainability rules on Monday, having also been docked a further six points for another charge this season.
How Everton could do with the boost of recovering some of those lost points as the battle for survival looks set to go down to the wire.
Nottingham Forest visit Goodison Park in a huge relegation six-pointer on Sunday and Sean Dyche’s men will need to improve at both ends of the field to prolong their 70-year stay in the top flight.
The visitors were dealt a blow before kick-off as Dominic Calvert-Lewin missed out due to a hamstring injury.
His deputy Beto spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring when he somehow turned over Seamus Coleman’s cross from point-blank range.
Palmer was not so forgiving at the other end as he made another case to be crowned as the Premier League’s player of the year.
City must regret letting the 21-year-old leave for what now looks like a bargain £40 million ($50 million) in September.
Palmer nutmegged Jarrad Branthwaite before exchanging a neat one-two with Jackson and curling home from the edge of the box to open the scoring.
With Enzo Fernandez absent due to injury, Mauricio Pochettino flanked Palmer and Jackson with Noni Madueke and Mykhailo Mudryk for the first time in his starting line-up.
Everton could not live with the sharpness of that front four and Palmer was left with an easy task to head in his second after Jordan Pickford denied Jackson from a Mudryk cross.
The England goalkeeper then had a moment to forget as he gifted possession to Palmer, who nonchalantly chipped his international teammate on his weaker right foot from midway inside the Everton half.
In contrast to Palmer, Jackson has had an inconsistent first season at Chelsea but produced an excellent touch and finish to fire in his 13th goal of the season on the stroke of half-time.
A routine night for Pochettino’s men was still not without drama when they were awarded a penalty on the hour mark.
Both Madueke and Jackson tried to take over penalty duties before they were forcibly removed by captain Conor Gallagher to hand Palmer the ball.
He duly made it nine out of nine successful spot-kicks this season to take his tally for the season in both Chelsea and City colors to 25.
Academy graduate Gilchrist had only been on the field a matter of seconds when he blasted in the sixth after Pickford parried Ben Chilwell’s effort.


Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona

Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona
Updated 14 April 2024
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Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona

Real Madrid win at Mallorca while resting players for Man City trip. Atletico beat Girona
  • The victory on the Mediterranean island increased Madrid’s commanding lead of the league to 11 points before second-placed Barcelona played at Cadiz
  • Ancelotti equaled Zinedine Zidane with 183 league games coached for Madrid, second only to Miguel Muñoz’s record 424 league games

BARCELONA, Spain: Real Madrid ground out a 1-0 win at Mallorca in the Spanish league on Saturday while resting top players ahead of their decisive Champions League game at Manchester City.

Midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni scored the only goal three minutes after halftime.

The victory on the Mediterranean island increased Madrid’s commanding lead of the league to 11 points before second-placed Barcelona played at Cadiz later.

Madrid visit Manchester City on Wednesday with their quarterfinal poised after a 3-3 draw in Spain’s capital this week.

“We have a very important game Wednesday,” Tchouameni said. “We played a very difficult game against City and we are tired, but we know that when we play for Madrid we have to give it our all until the end.”

Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavinga played the final half hour as substitutes. Dani Carvajal went on for the final minutes, while Rodrygo and Toni Kroos never left the bench. Jude Bellingham started and was replaced by Camavinga.

A long strike by Tchouameni that deflected off a defender before finding the net was the only way Madrid got past the defense of Javier Aguirre’s Mallorca.

Tchouameni will miss the game in England to serve a suspension. A holding midfielder, he was used as a central defender by manager Carlo Ancelotti in the first leg against City while Madrid dealt with injuries.

After facing City, Madrid will then host Barcelona in La Liga next weekend.

Ancelotti equaled Zinedine Zidane with 183 league games coached for Madrid, second only to Miguel Muñoz’s record 424 league games.

Mallorca were playing their first game since losing the Copa del Rey final on penalties to Athletic Bilbao last weekend. They remained in 15th place.

ATLETICO BEAT GIRONA

Antoine Griezmann scored twice as Atletico Madrid beat Girona 3-1 to boost their chances of finishing in the top four.

Griezmann got his first league goal since December by converting a penalty after a handball by Girona. His leveler in the 34th canceled Artem Dovbyk’s early opener.

Alvaro Morata’s hustle proved key to putting the hosts ahead in first-half stoppage time when he chased down a ball before it could cross the end-line and whipped it into the area for Ángel Correo to head into the top corner.

Griezmann, Atletico’s all-time top scorer, then blasted in a loose ball in the 50th for his 13th league goal of the campaign.

Dovbyk moved ahead of Bellingham as the leading league scorer with his 17th to give Girona the fourth-minute lead. The Ukraine striker tapped in a low cross from Yan Couto after a quick team passing move disrupted Atletico’s coverage.

Girona remained in third place at four points clear of Atletico in fourth. Atletico moved five points ahead of Athletic Bilbao in fifth. The top four finishers in Spain earn Champions League berths for next season.

“It was very important to win today. We want to be in the Champions League next season,” Griezmann said. “We didn’t start well but when we took it to them we could turn it around.”

Atletico visit Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday leading their Champions League quarterfinal after a 2-1 first-leg win in Spain.

Rayo Vallecano also drew with Getafe 0-0 at home.


Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth

Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth
Updated 13 April 2024
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Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth

Fernandes double not enough for Man Utd win at Bournemouth
  • A point leaves United still 10 adrift of Aston Villa and Tottenham in the race for a top-four finish with six games to go
  • The Red Devils have now won just once in their last seven Premier League games to leave Erik ten Hag’s future as United boss next season in doubt

BOURNEMOUTH, United Kingdom: Manchester United’s chances of Champions League football next season took another battering as Bruno Fernandes’ double could only salvage a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Twice the Cherries led through Dominic Solanke and Justin Kluivert and Bournemouth were denied the opportunity to win the game at the death after a controversial VAR review overturned the decision to award the home side a penalty.
A point leaves United still 10 adrift of Aston Villa and Tottenham in the race for a top-four finish with six games to go.
The Red Devils have now won just once in their last seven Premier League games to leave Erik ten Hag’s future as United boss next season in doubt.
Once again it was United’s defensive deficiencies that were exploited as Bournemouth just missed out on a famous double after winning 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier in the season.
French teenager Willy Kambwala kept his place at center-back with Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof among those absent due to injury.
But Kambwala had a moment to forget for the opening goal as his slip allowed Solanke to pick his spot and fire home his 19th goal of the season.
United had barely threatened as an attacking force before they levelled against the run of play on 31 minutes.
Alejandro Garnacho’s deflected cross fell perfectly into the path of Fernandes to volley into the roof of the net.
Bournemouth were back in front within five minutes as this time Kluivert took advantage of the acres of space offered by the United defense inside the box to drill low past Andre Onana.
Ten Hag’s future as United boss becomes more unsure with every passing week and poor performance.
However, the Dutchman was rewarded for a daring change at half-time as he replaced Garnacho with Amad Diallo.
The Ivorian winger shot to fame with an extra-time winner against Liverpool in a thrilling FA Cup quarter-final last month.
And he helped earn the visitors a point as his deflected shot was handled by Adam Smith inside the area.
Fernandes stepped up to slot the resulting penalty past Neto.
Bournemouth thought they had a spot-kick of their own deep into stoppage time when Kambwala blocked Ryan Christie’s charge into the box.
After a penalty was initially awarded, VAR intervened to say the foul had taken place just outside the box.
A point leaves Bournemouth still in 12th, eight points adrift of United in the European places.


Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League

Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League
Updated 13 April 2024
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Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League

Haaland scores as Man City rout Luton 5-1 to go top of the Premier League
  • Arsenal host Aston Villa on Sunday, when Liverpool take on Crystal Palace
  • With City still in contention for a second straight treble of major trophies, manager Pep Guardiola took the opportunity to rotate his squad

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City kept up the pressure on Arsenal and Liverpool with an emphatic 5-1 victory over relegation-threatened Luton on Saturday that put the defending champion back atop the English Premier League.
An early own goal from Daiki Hashioka gave City the lead at Etihad Stadium before a fierce shot by Mateo Kovacic and a penalty by Erling Haaland put the game beyond doubt after the break.
Luton earned a consolation goal through Ross Barkley in the 81st but Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol added late goals to wrap up the win, which lifted City two points above Arsenal and Liverpool.
Arsenal host Aston Villa on Sunday, when Liverpool take on Crystal Palace.
With City still in contention for a second straight treble of major trophies, manager Pep Guardiola took the opportunity to rotate his squad and left key midfielder Rodri on the bench after the Spaniard said publicly he needed a rest.
Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and John Stones also were rested ahead of Real Madrid’s visit on Wednesday in the return leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. But goalkeeper Ederson returned to replace Stefan Ortega and Kevin De Bruyne was back after an illness.
It was a bit of luck, though, that gave City the opener inside two minutes.
Haaland attempted an acrobatic volley after his initial shot was saved, but the ball was heading well wide until it took a huge deflection off Hashioka’s head and ended up in the net.
But Luton defended with great determination and the second goal didn’t come until just after the hour when Kovavic unleashed an unstoppable effort from the edge of the area following a corner.
Doku then won a penalty after being brought down in the area and Haaland calmly sent Thomas Kaminski the wrong way to register his 31st goal of the season in all competitions, but only his second in six games.
Barkley robbed Nunes to pull one back but City finished with a flourish.
Doku claimed the fourth after weaving through the area in the 87th and Gvardiol followed up his fine strike against Madrid with another stunner in stoppage time.


Bayern beat Cologne to delay Leverkusen title party

Bayern beat Cologne to delay Leverkusen title party
Updated 13 April 2024
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Bayern beat Cologne to delay Leverkusen title party

Bayern beat Cologne to delay Leverkusen title party
  • Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel made seven changes to his side ahead of Wednesday’s quarter-final second leg against Arsenal
  • Mueller added a second to seal the result in the third minute of stoppage time

MUNICH: Bayern Munich defender Raphael Guerreiro struck a brilliant second-half goal and Thomas Mueller scored late to beat Cologne 2-0 on Saturday, delaying Bayer Leverkusen’s Bundesliga title party to Sunday at the earliest.
Bayern’s win means Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen, who are 13 points clear of the Bavarians, need to beat Werder Bremen at home on Sunday to lift the Bundesliga trophy for the first time.
Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel made seven changes to his side ahead of Wednesday’s quarter-final second leg against Arsenal, with Harry Kane and Mathys Tel hitting the woodwork in the first half.
Former Borussia Dortmund player Guerreiro, starting at left-back ahead of Alphonso Davies, unleashed a curling shot from outside the box which broke the deadlock after 65 minutes.
Mueller added a second to seal the result in the third minute of stoppage time.
Dortmund and RB Leipzig continued their battle for fourth place — the final guaranteed Champions League spot — with both winning to stay level on points ahead of their clash in Saxony in late April.
Dortmund were reduced to 10 men and made to hold on to a 2-1 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach after Karim Adeyemi was sent off after picking up a second yellow with 35 minutes remaining.
Dortmund were in control after a first-half brace from Marcel Sabitzer, the second from the penalty spot, gave them a two-goal lead after 28 minutes.
Gladbach pulled one back late in the first half when Maximilian Woeber took advantage of some sleepy Dortmund defending from a corner.
Adeyemi, who won a penalty on 48 minutes but had it overturned by VAR, was dismissed seven minutes later after tripping Stefan Lainer.
Leipzig, who sit ahead of Dortmund on goal difference, won 3-0 at home over Wolfsburg thanks to goals from Dani Olmo, Benjamin Sesko and Lois Openda.
The victory came just days after surprisingly poaching Wolfsburg’s sporting director Marcel Schaefer, who won the title with the Wolves as a player in 2009.
Mainz boosted their chances of beating the drop, coming from behind to beat Hoffenheim 4-1 with four second-half goals to pull one point behind Bochum, who drew 1-1 at home with Heidenheim.
Bochum sit in 15th, the final safe spot, after Keven Schlotterbeck scored an own goal but then headed in the equalizer for the hosts in the final minute.
Later on Saturday, Stuttgart can draw level on points with second-placed Bayern with a win when they host Eintracht Frankfurt.