Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

Arsenal's Kai Havertz celebrates scoring the Gunners third goal. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 April 2024
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Five-star Arsenal thrash Chelsea to open up Premier League lead

  • The destiny of the title remains in Man City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand

LONDON: Kai Havertz and Ben White scored twice as Arsenal thrashed Chelsea 5-0 on Tuesday to surge ahead in the Premier League title race and ramp up the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City.
Leandro Trossard was also on target in a record win over Chelsea for the Gunners, who move three points clear of Liverpool and four of Manchester City.
The destiny of the title remains in City’s hands as the defending champions have two games in hand.
Liverpool have also played one fewer game than Arsenal and are in action at Everton in the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.
However, Mikel Arteta’s men’s goal difference advantage now looks unassailable should it become decisive in the title race.
“We have made our people very proud, it is a big derby for us and I know what it means,” said Arteta.
“We started the game really well but didn’t convert all our chances — we were a bit sloppy in certain areas of the pitch.
“In the second half we were much more disciplined and created chances and were ruthless in front of goal.”
Chelsea and Arsenal’s title rivals were dealt a huge blow before kick-off as the Blues’ danger man Cole Palmer was ruled out due to illness.
Palmer has scored or assisted nearly 50 percent of Chelsea’s Premier League goals this season and his presence was badly missed by the visitors.
Despite enduring a disappointing first season under Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea had been unbeaten in eight consecutive league games prior to their FA Cup semifinal defeat to Manchester City on Saturday.
But they were blown away by an Arsenal side keen to reaffirm their title credentials after losing their last home game to Aston Villa.
“So difficult (a) result and performance (to accept) because it is not nice to see your team playing like this from the beginning of the game,” said Pochettino.
“Today we didn’t compete against a team fighting for the Premier League. We need to be aware we need to compete in a different way.”
The hosts flew out of the blocks and were in front inside five minutes.
Trossard only ended up at the Emirates after Arsenal were gazumped by Chelsea in the battle to sign Mykhailo Mudryk in January 2023.
The Belgian has proved to be a far more productive signing and smashed in his 15th goal of the season at Djordje Petrovic’s near post.
Petrovic redeemed himself for a mistake at the opening goal with two brilliant saves to turn away Havertz’s low effort and a deflected shot by Trossard to keep his side in the game before half-time.
The Serbian briefly held Arsenal at bay early in the second period with saves from Declan Rice and Havertz.
However, the floodgates opened once White curled in Arsenal’s second after Chelsea failed to clear a corner on 52 minutes.
Havertz scored the winning goal in a Champions League final for Chelsea during his three years in west London, but he never performed consistently to the level he has found in recent months under Arteta.
Martin Odegaard’s stunning through ball was met with the finish it deserved as Havertz smashed high past Petrovic.
His next finish was more subtle as the German international fired in off the post from Bukayo Saka’s pass for his seventh goal in his last 14 club games.
A night for forget for Chelsea was summed up when White’s attempted cross flew into the top corner from another sensational Odegaard pass.
Defeat leaves Chelsea still in ninth, three points adrift of the European places.
Next up for Arsenal is what appears their toughest hurdle remaining away to Tottenham in Sunday’s north London derby.
Should Arteta’s side prevail at the home of their fiercest rivals, City will likely need to be perfect in their final six games to retain the title.


Barcelona avenge Lyon defeats to win third women’s Champions League

Updated 58 min 26 sec ago
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Barcelona avenge Lyon defeats to win third women’s Champions League

  • The defending champions had never beaten the French giants, losing in the 2019 and 2022 finals against them, but finally succeeded in Bilbao
  • Securing their third Champions League trophy from five final appearances, Barcelona demonstrated that they are the new powerhouse of the women’s game

BILBAO, Spain: Aitana Bonmati and Alexia Putellas struck to earn Barcelona their third women’s Champions League trophy, securing a 2-0 triumph over record eight-time winners Lyon on Saturday.

The defending champions had never beaten the French giants, losing in the 2019 and 2022 finals against them, but finally succeeded in Bilbao to compete a spectacular quadruple this season in coach Jonatan Giraldez’s last match in charge.

Bonmati pounced after 63 minutes and substitute Putellas finished the job in stoppage time to avenge Barcelona’s prior defeats by Sonia Bompastor’s side.

Securing their third Champions League trophy from five final appearances across the last six seasons, Barcelona demonstrated that they are the new powerhouse of the women’s game.

“(It’s) a dream day, it is difficult to explain with words the feeling I have now. It is a special moment,” said Giraldez.

“It is one of happiest days of my life.”

Barca’s stars had insisted that this time they were capable of beating Lyon, adding experience and mental strength to their undoubted talent, and so it proved at a packed San Mames.

Backed by the vast majority of a 51,000 record crowd at a women’s Champions League final, Bonmati and her side completed one of the few challenges remaining to them.

“It’s the first time we’ve beaten Lyon. I’m proud of the team, and we know that with these fans we have, we can’t fail,” Bonmati told DAZN.

“It’s incredible what we’re living through as a team, I’m so lucky... to see we’re creating that for so many people, the historic amount of fans we’ve brought, it’s the proudest I’ve felt, I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Giraldez started Mariona Caldentey in attack and moved Fridolina Rolfo to left-back, dropping Ona Batlle to the bench alongside two-time Ballon d’Or winner Putellas.

Lyon left Ada Hegerberg started on the bench too, with the all-time top scorer in the competition’s history struggling for form after injury.

Lucy Bronze deflected a ball onto her own crossbar and Lyon’s towering captain Wendie Renard hit the outside of the post as Barcelona suffered a couple of early jitters.

After going four goals down by half-time in the 2019 final and three down in 2022, this time the Catalans dug deep to hold it together at the back.

Barca threatened increasingly at the other end. Patri Guijarro, who scored twice in last year’s final against Wolfsburg, broke in for their first big chance after half an hour.

Christiane Endler saved and Selma Bacha cleared the ball off the line after it rebounded back toward goal.

Barca’s Caroline Graham Hansen, in sparkling form this season, gave left-back Bacha a torrid time and had 11-time finalist Renard backpedalling fearfully near the end of the first half, but dragged her shot wide.

Barcelona made their quality count after the hour mark when Bonmati sent them ahead.

The Ballon d’Or winner had been quiet but arrived to collect Caldentey’s clever pass and burst into the area.

Bonmati’s low shot deflected off Vanessa Gilles and flew over the helpless Endler, for her sixth goal of the tournament.

Champions League top goalscorer Kadidiatou Diani curled agonizingly over for Lyon as Bompastor’s side tried to fight back. Hegerberg headed off target as Lyon’s chances ebbed away.

“We have to recognize Barcelona had a great match and deserved to win even though it’s hard to accept it,” said Bompastor, tipped to join Chelsea next season, although she stayed tight-lipped on her future.

“We lacked attacking efficiency, we should have scored a goal.”

Eventually Putellas, on as a late substitute, put on the captain’s armband and settled the game by rifling into the top corner to get Barcelona’s celebrations started early.

“Obviously it’s a dream come true, what we have achieved,” said Putellas after her goal locked in Barcelona’s quadruple.

Bronze who won the competition for the fifth time — including three times with Lyon — praised Putellas.

“She’s the captain of the team, she’s the ‘queen’ of Barcelona for a reason,” said Bronze.

“She’s got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and just sealed the win for us.”
 


Bayer Leverkusen win the German Cup and complete undefeated domestic double

Updated 26 May 2024
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Bayer Leverkusen win the German Cup and complete undefeated domestic double

  • Leverkusen won the Bundesliga unbeaten, a historic feat
  • The only blip on the record of Xabi Alonso’s team this season was losing the Europa League final to Atalanta 3-0 on Wednesday in Dublin

BERLIN: Granit Xhaka’s early strike was enough for Bayer Leverkusen to win the German Cup final 1-0 over Kaiserslautern for an unbeaten domestic double on Saturday.

Xhaka fired the ball in under the crossbar from distance in the 16th minute. It proved to be enough against second-division Kaiserslautern despite losing defender Odilon Kossounou to a second yellow card just before the break.

Leverkusen won the Bundesliga unbeaten, a historic feat. The only blip on the record of Xabi Alonso’s team this season was losing the Europa League final to Atalanta 3-0 on Wednesday in Dublin. That ended Leverkusen’s record 51-game unbeaten run across all competitions. It was their only loss in 53 games this season.

“The whole journey, the whole season was wonderful,” the Spanish coach said after doubling Leverkusen’s trophy haul in just one season. “What we did this season is unbelievable.”

Alonso and his players ran to their fans after the whistle on Saturday in Berlin’s Olympiastadion. They had supported the team loudly throughout, though were drowned at times by the even more vociferous Kaiserslautern supporters.

They displayed a spectacular tifo of a red devil grasping the trophy in front of a hellish background of fire and brimstone before the game. Flares sending red smoke into the sky embellished the effect – and gave an inkling of what was to come.

The stadium announcer’s repeated requests to stop the pyrotechnics were met with continued indifference. The second half began to a huge fireworks display from the Leverkusen fans.

Despite the smoke above, there was little fire on the field after a long hard season. Kossounou was booked for stopping Kenny Prince Redondo’s break in the third minute, then issued another yellow for a foul on Boris Tomiak in the 44th.

It didn’t stop the Leverkusen machine from grinding out the win. Jeremie Frimpong should have made it 2-0 in the 75th after going past the goalkeeper.

It’s Leverkusen’s second German Cup title after beating Hertha Berlin’s reserve team in the 1993 final. Leverkusen’s other trophy is the 1988 UEFA Cup.


PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game

Updated 26 May 2024
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PSG win the French Cup and the double in Kylian Mbappe’s last game

  • Mbappe: Now, I have nothing left with PSG. But I’m very happy to have been able to finish with a trophy
  • PSG won the league and cup for the first time since 2020 when they achieved a domestic treble by also lifting the now defunct League Cup

VILLENEUVE D’ASCQ, France: Paris Saint-Germain beat Lyon 2-1 in the French Cup final and completed the domestic double in Kylian Mbappé’s last game for the club on Saturday.

France winger Ousmane Dembele and Spain midfielder Fabian Ruiz scored for PSG in the first half.

Lyon defender Jake O’Brien got a consolation goal in the second half.

PSG won the league and cup for the first time since 2020 when they achieved a domestic treble by also lifting the now defunct League Cup.

Mbappe celebrated with a big roar after the final whistle. With an equally big smile on his face, he hugged and high-fived his teammates. The ecstatic PSG staff lifted Mbappe and threw him in the air.

“You feel a bit more the weight of things because you realize that it’s really over,” Mbappe told broadcaster beIN Sports. “When I said goodbye to the Parc des Princes, there were still some games left, so you are still focused on what awaits you. Now, I have nothing left with PSG. But I’m very happy to have been able to finish with a trophy.”

Despite losing in the final, Lyon still qualified for the Europa League by finishing sixth in the league.

Dembélé opened the scoring in the 22nd minute by heading home a cross from Nuno Mendes.

Ruiz doubled the lead by converting a rebound in the 34th after his header was blocked by O’Brien.

Lyon goalkeeper Lucas Perri pulled off some outstanding saves in the opening minutes, denying Bradley Barcola and Warren Zaire-Emery, but misjudged the flight of the ball when Mendes made the cross for the opener.

O’Brien cut the deficit to 2-1 by heading in a corner in the 55th.

PSG has struggled in the air this season and nearly conceded from another corner in the 64th, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma tipped a header from Lyon left back Nicolas Tagliafico over the bar.

“The players are disappointed but let’s not forget that we must also be proud of what we have done,” Lyon coach Pierre Sage told broadcaster beIN Sports.

Lyon was bottom of the league in December but racked up more points than any other club in the second half of the season to finish sixth.

Mbappe tried hard to find the net in his last outing for PSG. A curling shot from the edge of the box didn’t trouble Perri in the 20th and he volleyed over the bar in the 41st.

In seven seasons with PSG, Mbappe has won 15 trophies, including four French Cups.

Although Mbappe did not add to his tally, he leaves as PSG’s all-time top scorer in all competitions with 256 in 308 appearances.

“I’m happy to have been part of its history and to have made it a bit,” Mbappe said.

The French Cup final was marred by violence as Lyon and PSG supporters clashed on a highway leading to the venue a few hours before kickoff.

Supporters threw flares and windows were smashed on buses full of supporters. Some buses were set on fire.

The match was relocated to Stade Pierre Mauroy in the north of France because of preparations for the Olympic Games.

Villeneuve d’Ascq became the first city outside the Greater Paris area to host the French Cup final since the competition’s inception in 1917.


Violence mars French Cup final as Lyon and PSG ultras clash before game

Updated 26 May 2024
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Violence mars French Cup final as Lyon and PSG ultras clash before game

  • Lyon and PSG ultras have a long-standing rivalry and were expected to travel to Villeneuve d’Ascq for the final

VILLENEUVE D’ASCQ, France: Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain supporters clashed on a highway leading to the venue of the French Cup final a few hours before kickoff on Saturday.
Supporters threw flares and windows were smashed on buses full of supporters. Some buses were set on fire.
The final was deemed a very high security risk by the national police division for the fight against hooliganism, which put the threat level at five on a scale of five, according to RMC Sport.
Lyon and PSG ultras have a long-standing rivalry and were expected to travel to Villeneuve d’Ascq for the final.
PSG supporters also caused trouble in the youth French Cup final, a curtain-raiser to the French Cup final, by throwing projectiles at Marseille Under-19 goalkeeper Aboubaka Dosso. The game was suspended for about 10 minutes in the second half before resuming. Marseille beat Nancy 4-1.
The French Cup final was relocated to Stade Pierre Mauroy in the north of France because of preparations in Paris for the Olympic Games. PSG beat Lyon 2-1.
Violence has stained French football all season.
A Nantes supporter was stabbed to death by a driver whose vehicle was carrying Nice supporters before a league game in December.
A league game between Montpellier and Clermont was abandoned in October after a Montpellier supporter threw onto the field a firecracker which exploded near Clermont goalkeeper Mory Diaw.
Also in October, a league game between Marseille and Lyon was postponed after then Lyon coach Fabio Grosso suffered a serious head injury when the team bus was hit by thrown objects on the way to Stade Velodrome, shattering some windows. Grosso’s deep cut above his left eye required stitches and he wore a large bandage around his head. Inside the stadium, Lyon supporters were also seen making Nazi salutes and monkey gestures.
Last month, a violent street brawl involved dozens of ultras before a game between Rennes and Toulouse. French media reports said one Toulouse fan needed hospital treatment for head trauma.
Ultras have been targeting buses carrying supporters and there have been more than a dozen attacks this season.


Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

Updated 25 May 2024
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Crespo’s Al Ain beat Yokohama 5-1 to win Asian Champions League

  • Al Ain won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016
  • Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium

AL-AIN, UAE: Hernan Crespo’s Al Ain steamrollered 10-man Yokohama F-Marinos 5-1 in the Asian Champions League final return leg to lift the trophy for the second time in their history on Saturday.
The hosts trailed 2-1 from the away fixture but two goals from Soufiane Rahimi, a Kaku penalty and Kodjo Laba’s late double ensured a 6-3 aggregate victory after Yokohama goalkeeper William Popp saw red just before half-time.
Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates’ most successful club, won the inaugural Champions League final in 2003 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2016.
Harry Kewell’s Yokohama were attempting to become the fourth Japanese winners after Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers and three-time winners Urawa Red Diamonds.
The win will be all the sweeter for Crespo after the 2005 European Champions League final, when the ex-Argentina international scored twice for AC Milan before Kewell’s Liverpool came back to win on penalties.
Crespo had promised “hell” for Yokohama and thousands of fans in white robes and headdresses let off flares and chanted outside before packing out Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
With temperatures still hovering above 30 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) at the 8:00 p.m. kick-off, Al Ain were ahead after just nine minutes.
Yahia Nader’s sweet backheel wrong-footed the defense and tournament top-scorer Rahimi rifled a low shot into the net for his 12th of the competition.
Ken Matsubara had a fizzing shot tipped wide but Al Ain doubled their advantage in the 34th minute after Shinnosuke Hatanaka brought down Rahimi in the box.
After a VAR review, Uzbek referee Ilgiz Tantashev pointed to the spot and Paraguay international Kaku smashed it into the bottom right, sparking delirium in the stands.
Al Ain’s joy was doused as Yokohama’s Yan Matheus stole a bouncing ball from Kouame Kouadio, then turned the defender inside-out and finished left-footed to make it 2-1 and 3-3 on aggregate.
But the half — which stretched to an extraordinary 62 minutes — finished badly for Yokohama when goalkeeper William Popp felled the on-rushing Rahimi and was sent off deep into injury time.
After the restart, a depleted Yokohama lived dangerously when Hatanaka, under pressure from Rahimi, parried a deep cross onto his own crossbar.
The visitors were creaking and on 67 minutes, Rahimi picked up a rebound, rounded a defender and lashed it past substitute ‘keeper Fuma Shirasaka at his near post.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of Yokohama, who also had Hatanaka stretchered off, and Togolese substitute Laba pierced their porous defense twice in another long spell of injury time.
Al Ain had already won bragging rights over neighboring Saudi Arabia, whose teams spent more than a billion dollars on players including Cristiano Ronaldo last year, with their Asian campaign.
Crespo’s side ousted Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in the quarter-finals before halting Al Hilal’s top-flight-record streak of 34 consecutive wins when they met in the semis.
With their victory, Al Ain also reach the new-look, 32-team Club World Cup, whose inaugural staging is scheduled for June and July next year in the United States.