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El Clasico: Real Madrid shock Barcelona at Camp Nou

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A second-half penalty from Sergio Ramos helped lift Real Madrid to a 1-3 victory over Barcelona in the latest instalment of El Clasico on Saturday evening at the Camp Nou.

The two sides produced a thrilling first half in which Fede Valverde and Ansu Fati exchanged goals in the first 10 minutes, before Barcelona seemingly took control early in the second stanza. However, a key penalty call via VAR earned Real Madrid a penalty, which Ramos duly converted, and a late Luka Modric strike polished things off for Los Blancos.

The win for Real Madrid halts a two-match losing streak, while it marks a second straight La Liga loss for the Catalans.

There was a strong infusion of youth in the starting XI of Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, with 17-year-olds Pedri and Ansu Fati getting the nod on the wings, as did 19-year-old right-back Sergino Dest, who became the first ever United States player to start and play in a Clasico.

As for the visitors from the capital and maligned head coach Zinedine Zidane, Marco Asensio was a notable inclusion in attack for Los Blancos, while it was surprising to see veteran midfielder Modric relegated to the bench. Ramos also won his race to fitness and was slotted in at his customary centre-back position.

Zidane’s men were quick out of the gates and drew first blood inside the first five minutes when a perfectly weighted pass from Karim Benzema found a wide-open Valverde, who sent a rocket into net for a 0-1 Real Madrid lead.

But the defensive frailties showed by Real Madrid in their previous outings were exposed in short order and a ball over the top from Messi found the streaking Jordi Alba on the left wing.

The veteran left-back, who was making a return from injury, then hit a perfect square ball for Ansu Fati to turn into net to even things up 1-1.

The action was end-to-end and seconds after Real Marid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois denied Messi at the near post, Barcelona shot-stopper Neto had to come up big with a save from a Benzema shot after a superb cross from Toni Kroos.

Shortly before half time, Zidane was forced into his first change with the hobbling Nacho having to yield his spot to Lucas Vazquez. Barcelona had the stronger start of the two in the second half and a Ansu Fati cross floated to Philippe Coutinho could have been headed in, but the Brazilian missed wide.

Right when Barcelona were displaying their best football, controversy erupted and a penalty was awarded to Real Madrid after VAR ruled that Clement Lenglet had pulled on Ramos’ shirt in the area.

The captain stepped up and like he has so many times, coolly converted the spot-kick to hand Real Madrid a 1-2 lead.

An injury to a woozy Fede Valverde provoked the second change for Real Madrid, as Modric came on for the young Uruguayan.

With less than a quarter-hour to play, Koeman finally made his first changes, with Antoine Griezmann, Francisco Trincao and Ousmane Dembele came on for Ansu Fati, Pedri and Busquets, while Zidane swapped off Asensio for Rodrygo Goes.

Barcelona’s frustrations began to grow, while Real Madrid looked very comfortable holding the late lead. Los Blancos had a trio of chances to put the nail in the coffin, the first two coming off the boot of Kroos, followed shortly by a clear-cut chance for Ramos, only to see Neto rise to the challenge and make a pair of spectacular saves.

Martin Braithwaite was the next roll of the dice from Koeman in replacing Alba, but it was all for naught when Neto spilled the ball with Vinicius charging and Modric cleaned things up by depositing the ball into the net to complete the 1-3 scoreline.

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UEFA: We’ll ban players in Super League from World Cup, others

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UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says all players that play in the Super League will be banned from the World Cup, European competitions and other global football events.

The threat followed the decision by 12 top European football clubs to found a Super League, which was announced in a joint statement late on Sunday.

The founding clubs of the mid-week league were listed as English Premier League clubs Manchester United and Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea. The others are Italy’s Juventus and Milan clubs AC and Inter, and the Spanish trio of FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

“It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable,” the 12 clubs said in the statement.

Reported to be financially very lucrative, the project does not have the support of football’s governing bodies.

UEFA and football leagues and federations from England, Italy and Spain described it as “a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.”

Fifteen of the 20 participating clubs are to be permanent members, and the remaining five will “qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season,” the statement said the 12 clubs involved in the Super League had “spat in the face of football.

“The players that play in the Super League will be banned from playing in the World Cup and Euros.”

He also said, “We will take all the sanctions that we can. I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against this disgraceful, self-serving proposals, fuelled by greed above all else.

“We urge everyone to stand tall with us as we do everything in our power to ensure this never ends up in fruition.”

According to the New York Times the new league would “generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for the participating teams.”

The club’s are already the richest clubs in the sport.

It was however reported that 2019/2020 UEFA Champions League winners Bayern Munich and finalists Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) were not among the clubs that had signed up or expressed interest.

In a statement UEFA and football leagues and federations from England, Italy and Spain said, “As previously announced by FIFA and the six federations, the clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level.

“Their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.

“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this.”

Before the announcement the Premier League in England said it “condemns any proposal that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit. These are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid.”

German Football League chief Christian Seifert spoke of his body’s opposition, saying, “We reject any kind of European Super League concept” which would “irreparably damage the national leagues as the basis of European professional football.”

The latest development comes on the eve of a UEFA executive committee meeting.

The meeting, apart from finalising the host cities for the summer’s Euro tournament, is also to approve a Champions League reform from 2024 onwards.

The powerful European Club Association (ECA) and UEFA’s club competitions committee were reportedly in agreement Friday about the reform.

Under this, the elite event is to be increased from 32 to 36 teams and each team plays 10 instead of six group games in what is known as “the Swiss model.”

Two of the additional four clubs are to controversially come via historic results not through qualification via domestic action.

The large number of additional matches is a threat to domestic competitions.

Fan groups have also voiced their dissent, with an even bigger outcry expected if a Super League becomes reality.

The reports said that European officials were discussing counter measures which could include banning Super League clubs from next season’s Champions League.

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Tottenham sack Jose Mourinho

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Tottenham Hotspur management has sacked coach Jose Mourinho.

The announcement comes after Tottenham Hotspur drew 2-2 with Everton on Friday evening, leaving them down in seventh place in the table.

Mourinho was appointed as Tottenham manager in November 2019, a day after the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino.

He guided them to sixth place in the table by the end of the campaign, but his style of football often didn’t win him much acclaim from fans.

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Kelechi Iheanacho fires Leicester City into FA Cup final

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Leicester City have booked their place in the FA Cup final against Chelsea as Kelechi Iheanacho’s second-half strike seals the win over Southampton.

It is Leicester City’s first FA Cup final since 1969.

The striker converted from close range in the 55th minute after good work from Jamie Vardy set him up during a counter attack.

It is the fifth time the Foxes have reached the FA Cup final and they will now face Chelsea next month after the Blues defeated Manchester City in the other semi-final on Saturday.

Iheanacho’s strike was the 14th he has scored in this competition since 2015 and no player – not Sergio Aguero or Harry Kane – has scored more FA Cup goals during that time. The cup has become his playground.

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