African Players in Europe: Klopp Salutes Calm Match-winner Salah

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Salah - File Photo DPA
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Salah - File Photo DPA
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African Players in Europe: Klopp Salutes Calm Match-winner Salah

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Salah - File Photo DPA
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Salah - File Photo DPA

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hailed the composure of Mohamed Salah after his goal delivered a 2-1 Premier League win over Brighton at the weekend, and first place with nine matches remaining.

"Being that calm in the decisive moment with the biggest chance we had from the best football we played, then that makes a real goalscorer so we are happy with everything," said Klopp.

Liverpool lead Arsenal by two points and defending champions Manchester City by three, but face three away matches in eight days during a challenging run-in.

- MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)

Egypt's captain sent the Reds to the top with his second-half winner against Brighton. Klopp's side trailed to Danny Welbeck's second-minute goal at Anfield, but Salah's deflected header set up Luis Diaz for a volleyed equaliser before the interval, AFPreported. After missing several chances, Salah sealed three priceless points for Liverpool when he calmly slotted home from Alexis Mac Allister's pass in the 65th minute. Salah's third goal in his last three games was his 22nd in all competitions this term.

- MOHAMMED KUDUS (West Ham)

The Ghana midfielder scored for the east London club in a dramatic 4-3 defeat at Newcastle. Kudus fired home from Jarrod Bowen's pass in the first half to put West Ham 2-1 ahead. But the Hammers eventually blew a two-goal lead as Newcastle's Harvey Barnes struck twice in the closing stages. Kudus was also less than impressed when one of the ball-boys at St James' Park refused to give up his stool to allow him to do his 'take-a-seat' celebration after scoring.

- SERHOU GUIRASSY (Stuttgart)

Guirassy scored the opener in Stuttgart's pulsating 3-3 Bundesliga draw with visiting Heidenheim, tapping in a cross from Angelo Stiller after 41 minutes. The goal was Guirassy's 23rd in 21 league games this season. The Guinea international has now scored in his past four matches. His tally is eight less than Bundesliga top scorer Harry Kane of Bayern Munich, but Guirassy has played six games fewer.

- SEBASTIEN HALLER (Borussia Dortmund)

Haller returned from an ankle injury in Borussia Dortmund's 2-0 win at Bayern Munich. He came off the bench late, his first match for Dortmund since December and his first game since he scored the winner in Ivory Coast's 2-1 victory over Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations final in February. Nine minutes after coming on, the 29-year-old forward found Julian Ryerson in the box, and the Norwegian scored Dortmund's second goal to seal their first league win in Munich since 2014.

- MOSTAFA MOHAMED (Nantes)

The Egypt striker's late penalty gave struggling Nantes a 2-1 Ligue 1 win at Nice in their first game under new coach Antoine Kombouare. The goal was an eighth of the season for his club for Mohamed, who had an impressive Cup of Nations at the beginning of the year as Egypt went out in the last 16. The result lifted Nantes out of the bottom three in Ligue 1. Nigeria's Terem Moffi netted a penalty for Nice in the same game.

- JOSEPH OKUMU (Reims)

The 26-year-old Kenyan international central defender scored his first goal since moving to France from Belgian side Gent last year to put Reims ahead at Lyon. However, it was not enough to earn his side all three points as Ghana's Ernest Nuamah equalised at the other end to secure a 1-1 draw for Lyon.



Bellingham Scores Late, Moves Madrid Closer to League Title After ‘Clasico’ Win Over Barcelona 

Soccer Football - LaLiga - Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - April 21, 2024 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham, Antonio Rudiger and Vinícius Júnior celebrate after the match (Reuters)
Soccer Football - LaLiga - Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - April 21, 2024 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham, Antonio Rudiger and Vinícius Júnior celebrate after the match (Reuters)
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Bellingham Scores Late, Moves Madrid Closer to League Title After ‘Clasico’ Win Over Barcelona 

Soccer Football - LaLiga - Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - April 21, 2024 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham, Antonio Rudiger and Vinícius Júnior celebrate after the match (Reuters)
Soccer Football - LaLiga - Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - April 21, 2024 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham, Antonio Rudiger and Vinícius Júnior celebrate after the match (Reuters)

With a late strike by Jude Bellingham, Real Madrid took a huge step toward winning the Spanish league.

Bellingham, who quickly became one of Madrid’s most important players after his transfer last year, likely sealed the title on Sunday by scoring a stoppage-time winner in a 3-2 victory over Barcelona in the final “clasico” of the season.

Barcelona twice took the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, but Madrid rallied to win for a comfortable 11-point cushion over its second-place rival entering the final six rounds.

Bellingham scored the winning goal from a difficult angle one minute into stoppage time with a left-foot strike into the top of the net after a cross toward the far post by Lucas Vázquez, who also scored and set up a goal by Vinícius Júnior.

“He hadn't scored in a while but scored a goal that could be crucial for us winning the Spanish league,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said of the 20-year-old midfielder.

Bellingham hadn't found the net in his last six appearances for Madrid in all competitions. The England international had scored both goals for Madrid when it won 2-1 at Barcelona in the first league clasico of the season.

It was the third straight win for Madrid over Barcelona this season. Madrid is unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September.

“The title is a lot closer now. It was a vital match, we had to win it, and we did it,” Ancelotti said. “It was an even game, against a strong opponent that was doing all it could to get back into the title race again.”

The clasico came four days after Madrid eliminated Manchester City on penalties in England to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona had been eliminated a day earlier by Paris Saint-Germain after a loss at home, leaving the league as the Catalan team's only title opportunity for the season.

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, the hero for Madrid in the shootout against City, miscalculated a cross into the area in Barcelona’s first goal and failed to fully clear a ball in front of the goal in the second.

Barcelona, the defending league champion, came to the Spanish capital looking to revive its title chances and took an early lead with a header by Andreas Christensen six minutes into the match.

The hosts equalized with Vinícius converting an 18th-minute penalty kick before Barcelona went ahead again with Fermín López's goal from close range in the 69th. Vázquez, who was fouled after a run inside the area to prompt the penalty converted by Vinícius, evened the match again after a cross by the Brazil forward in the 73rd.

Vázquez was one of the changes made to the squad by Ancelotti after the match against City. He also used Luka Modric alongside Toni Kroos in midfield, and Aurélien Tchouaméni in defense.

Barcelona loudly complained about the penalty awarded to Madrid and wanted one for itself after a challenge on López in the second half. It also complained over a potential goal in the first half when it wasn't clear if the ball crossed the goal line before Lunin batted it away. It took several moments before video review determined that it was not a goal.

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández, likely making his last clasico appearance after saying he will leave the club at the end of the season, said his team played better and deserved to win.

“I said yesterday that I hoped the referee wouldn't make any mistake and that he would go unnoticed, but none of that happened,” Xavi said. “It's a shame. It was not a fair result. Everyone saw it"

Xavi said Barcelona would not give up on the league just yet but recognized that it was all-but-over and that Madrid had to be congratulated for its campaign.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong left the field on a stretcher late in the first half after hurting his right leg in a clash with Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde.

The match marked the debut of the new state-of-the-art 360-degree video scoreboard at the renovated Bernabeu.

Among those in attendance at the Bernabeu were tennis great Novak Djokovic, former NFL star Tom Brady and actor Andy Garcia.

ATLETICO STRUGGLES

Atletico Madrid followed up its Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league, missing a chance to strengthen its hold on fourth place.

The defeat against 13th-place Alaves kept Atletico only three points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Bilbao in the fight for a Champions League spot next season. Athletic had been held to a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Granada at home on Friday.

Atletico failed to advance in the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 5-4 on aggregate following a 4-2 loss in Germany on Tuesday.

Alaves, which had lost three league matches in a row, won with goals by Carlos Benavídez in the 15th minute and Luis Rioja in second-half stoppage time.

In other results, sixth-place Real Sociedad was held 1-1 at midtable Getafe, while ninth-place Villarreal won 2-1 at last-place Almeria.


Atalanta Follows Up Elimination of Liverpool with 2-1 win at Monza in Serie A

File photo: Soccer Football - Europa League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Atalanta v Liverpool - Stadio Atleti Azzurri, Bergamo, Italy, - April 18, 2024 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah shakes hands with manager Juergen Klopp after being substituted as Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez prepare to come on as substitutes. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
File photo: Soccer Football - Europa League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Atalanta v Liverpool - Stadio Atleti Azzurri, Bergamo, Italy, - April 18, 2024 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah shakes hands with manager Juergen Klopp after being substituted as Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez prepare to come on as substitutes. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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Atalanta Follows Up Elimination of Liverpool with 2-1 win at Monza in Serie A

File photo: Soccer Football - Europa League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Atalanta v Liverpool - Stadio Atleti Azzurri, Bergamo, Italy, - April 18, 2024 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah shakes hands with manager Juergen Klopp after being substituted as Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez prepare to come on as substitutes. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
File photo: Soccer Football - Europa League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Atalanta v Liverpool - Stadio Atleti Azzurri, Bergamo, Italy, - April 18, 2024 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah shakes hands with manager Juergen Klopp after being substituted as Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez prepare to come on as substitutes. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Atalanta followed up its elimination of Liverpool in the Europa League with a 2-1 win at Monza in a regional Serie A derby on Sunday.
Ademola Lookman assisted on both goals, first providing the corner kick that Charles De Ketelaere headed in and then setting up El Bilal Toure to finish off a counterattack.
Daniel Maldini pulled one back for Monza in the 89th and then nearly equalized when he hit the post five minutes into stoppage time.
The victory moved Atalanta up to sixth place and one point behind Roma in the race for the final Champions League spot, The Associated Press said.
Atalanta could also qualify for the Champions League if it wins the Europa League, having beaten Liverpool on 3-1 aggregate on Thursday. The Bergamo team faces Marseille in the semifinals.
Atalanta will also look to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Fiorentina in the second leg of the Italian Cup semifinals on Wednesday.
With 21 goals and 12 assists, Lookman became the fifth player to score more than 20 goals and deliver more than 10 assists since the start of last season in Serie A, after Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Rafael Leão, Paulo Dybala and Olivier Giroud.
Fiorentina produced two late goals to secure a 2-0 win at last-place Salernitana, moving the Tuscan club up to ninth place and back into contention for a spot in Europe.
Christian Kouame scored with a looping header in the 80th and Jonathan Ikone added another in stoppage time following a rebound of a save by Salernitana goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Salernitana, which is 13 points from safety with five rounds remaining, is nearing mathematical relegation.
Fiorentina, which has advanced to the Europa Conference League semifinals, ended a five-match winless streak in Serie A. The Viola also have a game to make up against Atalanta.
There was a brief clash between Salernitana and Fiorentina supporters before kickoff that resulted in injuries to 10 police officers, the Gazzetta dello Sport reported — adding that no fans were arrested.
Also, 10th-place Torino, which is also chasing a spot in Europe, drew 0-0 with Frosinone, which is third from the bottom.
Lecce won 3-0 at Sassuolo to move seven points clear of the drop zone, while Sassuolo remained second from the bottom.
Inter Milan can seal the Italian league title with a derby win over AC Milan on Monday.


Rybakina Beats Kostyuk to Win Porsche Grand Prix

21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa
21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa
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Rybakina Beats Kostyuk to Win Porsche Grand Prix

21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa
21 April 2024, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina celebrates with the trophy during the award ceremony after defeating Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk during their Women's singles final tennis match at the Stuttgart Open Tennis tournament. Photo: Marijan Murat/dpa

Elena Rybakina eased to her third title of the season on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in the final of the Porsche Grand Prix.
Rybakina, the world No. 4-ranked player who defeated top-ranked Iga Świątek in the semifinals, saved the three break points she faced and took four from six opportunities to win in 1 hour, 9 minutes, The Associated Press reported.
It’s Rybakina’s tour-leading 26th win of the year. The Stuttgart title comes after wins in Adelaide and Abu Dhabi this season. The Kazakh player’s previous clay-court wins were in Rome in 2023 and Bucharest in 2019.
The 27th-ranked Kostyuk was under pressure from the start as Rybakina broke her serve and sealed the first set in just 30 minutes.
Kostyuk had surprised herself with her run to the final, including three consecutive wins over top-10 players Zheng Qinwen, Coco Gauff and Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova. Kostyuk saved five match points against Zheng in the round of 16.
It was Kostyuk’s third final. She won her maiden title in Austin last year, and was runner-up in San Diego last month.


Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum

Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum
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Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum

Mutiso Munyao Gives Kenya Another London Marathon Win after Tribute to Kiptum

Alexander Mutiso Munyao delivered another win for Kenya on a day the London Marathon remembered last year's champion Kelvin Kiptum, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
A race that started with a period of applause for Kiptum, who was killed in a car crash in Kenya in February, ended with his countryman and friend running alone down the final straight in front of Buckinhgam Palace to earn an impressive victory in his first major marathon.
Mutiso Munyao said he spoke to Kiptum after his win in London last year and that the world-record holder is always on his mind when he's competing.
“He’s in my thoughts every time, because he was my great friend,” Mutiso Munyao said. “It was a good day for me.”
It was a Kenyan double on the day, with Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir pulling away late to win the women’s race and cement her status as the favorite to defend her gold in Paris.

Mutiso Munyao denied 41-year-old Kenenisa Bekele a first London Marathon victory by pulling away from the Ethiopian great with about 3 kilometers to go Sunday for his biggest career win.
Mutiso Munyao and Bekele were in a two-way fight for the win until the Kenyan made his move as they ran along the River Thames, quickly building a six-second gap that only grew as he ran toward the finish.
“At 40 kilometers, when my friend Bekele was left (behind), I had confidence that I can win this race,” the 27-year-old Mutiso Munyao said.
He finished in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 1 second, with Bekele finishing 14 seconds behind. Emile Cairess of Britain was third, 2:45 back.
Bekele, the Ethiopian former Olympic 10,000 and 5,000-meter champion, was also the runner-up in London in 2017 but has never won the race.
Mutiso Munyao is relatively unknown in marathon circles and said he wasn't sure whether this win would be enough to make Kenya's Olympic team for Paris.
“I hope for the best,” he said. “If they select me I will go and work for it.”


Another Race, Another Victory for Verstappen at Chinese GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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Another Race, Another Victory for Verstappen at Chinese GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates on the podium after winning the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Another Formula 1 race. Yet another victory for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The three-time defending champion won the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday starting from pole, his fourth victory in five races this season and his 23rd in the last 27 extending through last season, The Associated Press reported.
Only a brake failure last month at the Australian GP in Melbourne probably kept him from sweeping all five.
Verstappen trailed for only a few laps following a pit stop. Lando Norris of McLaren was about 14 seconds behind Verstappen in second — the eighth time he has been No. 2 in his career as he still seeks his first victory. Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was third.
“It felt amazing,” Verstappen said. “All weekend we were incredibly quick and it was just enjoyable to drive. The car was basically on rails and I could do whatever I wanted to with it. Those kind of weekends are amazing to feel.”
The safety car came out twice in the middle of the race. Once after Sauber's Valtteri Bottas stalled at the edge of the track with a blown engine, and again with two nearly simultaneous incidents.
In one, Kevin Magnuessen clipped Yuki Tsunoda, and in the other, Lance Stroll ran into the back of Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen's rule in F1 also extended to Saturday when he took the inaugural sprint race of the season.
This was the first F1 in China since 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out four races. Shanghai-born Zhou Guanyu finished 14th for Sauber, perhaps his last chance to race at home as teams next season will shuffle their driver lineups.
The real competition in F1 for the rest of the season appears to be for the half-dozen places behind Verstappen and Perez. Mercedes' George Russell called it “a fight” for places No. 3 through No. 8.
“Small differences can have a major impact,” Russell said.

The next GP is Miami on May 5 where it's often a celebrity show.


Olympic Champion Jepchirchir Wins Women's Race at London Marathon

Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
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Olympic Champion Jepchirchir Wins Women's Race at London Marathon

Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir celebrates after winning the women's race in a world record time for a women's only race at the 2024 London Marathon in central London on April 21, 2024. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya pulled away late to win the London Marathon women’s race on Sunday and cement her status as the favorite to defend her gold in Paris.

Jepchirchir had by far the strongest finish as she easily left world-record holder Tigst Assefa and two other rivals behind to sprint alone down the final stretch in front of Buckingham Palace. She finished in 2 hours, 16 minutes, 16 seconds, with Assefa in second and Joyciline Jepkosgei in third.

That was more than 4 minutes slower than Assefa's world record set in Berlin last year, but it was the fastest time ever in a women-only marathon, beating the mark of 2:17:01 set by Mary Keitany in London in 2017. The elite women’s field in London starts about 30 minutes ahead of the elite men.


Sweden’s Eckermann Crowned as Champion of 2024 Show Jumping and Dressage World Cup in Riyadh

The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA
The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA
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Sweden’s Eckermann Crowned as Champion of 2024 Show Jumping and Dressage World Cup in Riyadh

The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA
The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row. SPA

The Vice President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Prince Fahad bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz, in the presence of the President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Ingmar de Vos, crowned Swedish rider Henrik von Eckermann with the Showjumping World Cup title at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Center in the capital, Riyadh, on the final day of the Show Jumping and Dressage World Cup.

The Swedish rider, ranked first in the world, succeeded in maintaining his title for the second year in a row and won the race of 1.60 meters' height without error throughout the tournament during 67.33 seconds, amidst high attendance of audience.

French rider Julien Epaillard won second place in the championship with a time of 66.52 seconds, with 4 faults, while Swedish rider Peder Fredricson came third with a time of 66.39 seconds, with 6 faults.
The championship was launched last Wednesday in Riyadh for the first time in the Middle East, with the participation of 51 male and female riders and 60 horses representing 24 countries, with financial prizes amounting to 2.6 million euros (SAR 10.4 million), which is considered the most expensive in the history of the Showjumping World Cups.


Man City Beats Chelsea with Late Silva Goal to Make FA Cup Final

Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024.  EPA/NEIL HALL
Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024. EPA/NEIL HALL
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Man City Beats Chelsea with Late Silva Goal to Make FA Cup Final

Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024.  EPA/NEIL HALL
Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola celebrates winning the FA Cup semi-final soccer match of Manchester City against Chelsea FC, in London, Britain, 20 April 2024. EPA/NEIL HALL

Manchester City’s European rule is over — its domestic dominance is not.
Even on a day when Arsenal rose to the summit of the English Premier League with a 2-0 win against Wolves, City kept its pursuit of back-to-back domestic doubles alive by booking its place in the FA Cup final.
Bernardo Silva’s late goal secured a 1-0 win against Chelsea in their semifinal on Saturday, just days after City’s Champions League defense was ended by Real Madrid.
Pep Guardiola’s team had to dig deep at Wembley, with Chelsea creating the best of the chances before Bernardo struck an 84th-minute winner.
A sweet moment for the Portuguese playmaker was even more special given he missed a penalty in the shootout loss to Madrid on Wednesday.
“(I’m) very happy after a very frustrating week for all of us, for me personally,” Bernardo said. “The good thing is in football at Man City, you play every three days. Every three days you have the chance to put things right and now we have a chance to win another trophy.”
City hoped to become the first team to win back-to-back trebles after winning the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup last season. Without the injured Erling Haaland, it had to show character to bounce back after the disappointment of defeat to Madrid.
Chelsea had chances to take the lead, but Nicolas Jackson wasted three golden opportunities before Bernardo’s decisive moment — converting Kevin De Bruyne’s cross from the left via a deflection from Marc Cucurella.
“We conceded in a moment you should not concede,” Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino said.
“We were not capable of being clinical in front of goal, we had many chances but we did not score. In the game we were a little bit better and deserved more, but it is not about deserving it, it is about being clinical and we were not.”
City is aiming to win the Cup for an eighth time, while Guardiola can extend his trophy haul to 16 since joining the club if his team completes the double.
He may look back on this game as being pivotal if City goes on to win the league and Cup, given the physical and mental strain the week has had on his players after being taken to extra time and penalties by Madrid.
Defeat to Chelsea would have raised questions over City’s resolve in the final weeks of a campaign when Arsenal and Liverpool are threatening to take the title race all the way.
While he celebrated joyously, fist pumping to the crowd and embracing each of his players, he voiced his anger over the decision to make his team play on Saturday. He said the semifinal should have been moved back 24 hours due to City’s Champions League commitments.
“I don’t understand how we survived today. It’s unacceptable to play today. Today is one of the greatest things I have seen from my players,” Guardiola said. “I just want to protect my players. It’s unacceptable, it’s common sense. I’m not asking for something special or privilege.”
Manchester United meets Coventry in the other semifinal on Sunday. The final is on May 25.
ARSENAL LEADS
Arsenal also had to show its resolve after a punishing week of its own.
Defeat to Aston Villa last weekend left Mikel Arteta’s team trailing City by two points at the top of the standings and that was followed by Champions League elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich.
After last season’s late title collapse, it looked like history was repeating itself.
But a 2-0 win at Wolves has gone some way to answering doubts about Arsenal’s credentials. Leandro Trossard and Martin Odegaard scored late in each half.
“It was a tough week for us. A few tough results and (it was) hard emotionally but we had to keep going,” Odegaard said.
Arsenal took over first place, a point clear of City, which has a game in hand.
Third-placed Liverpool can go level on points with Arsenal if it beats Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
RELEGATION BATTLE
Burnley’s hopes of survival were boosted by routing last-placed Sheffield United 4-1.
Vincent Kompany's team is putting together a late-season bid to avoid the drop with only one loss in seven in the league. Burnley is within three points of safety.
The win at Bramall Lane pushed Sheffield United closer to relegation, 10 points from safety with five games to go.
A good day for Burnley was made even better as relegation rival Luton was hammered at home by Brentford 5-1.
Luton, in 18th, had the chance to move out of the bottom three with a win, but is just two points ahead of Burnley in 19th.
Yoane Wissa struck twice for Brentford, which moved 10 points clear of the drop zone.


Ruud Advances to Barcelona Open Final, His Fourth Title Match of the Year

Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)
Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)
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Ruud Advances to Barcelona Open Final, His Fourth Title Match of the Year

Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)
Casper Ruud of Norway in action during his semifinal match against Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina at the ATP Barcelona Open tennis tournament held in Barcelona, Spain, 20 April 2024. (EPA)

Casper Ruud advanced to his fourth final of the year after beating Tomas Martin Etcheverry in straight sets at the Barcelona Open on Saturday.

The sixth-ranked Norwegian won the semifinal 7-6 (6), 6-4 on the outdoor clay court. He will face either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Dusan Lajovic for the title on Sunday.

Ruud has won 10 career titles but lost all three previous finals he played in 2024, including last weekend when he fell to Tsitsipas in the Monte Carlo title match.

Ruud needed to save a set point in the first set against Martin Etcheverry to record his season-leading 28th win.

Top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz withdrew from the tournament before it started because of an injury, while second-seeded Andrey Rublev lost in the second round.

Rafael Nadal, a 12-time champion in Barcelona, made his return to the courts for the first time since January on Tuesday, only to lose the next day.


Europe Discards Arsenal and Liverpool Shift Focus to EPL Title Race

 Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
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Europe Discards Arsenal and Liverpool Shift Focus to EPL Title Race

 Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp takes his hat off to Liverpool supporters at the end of the Europa League quarterfinal, second leg, soccer match between Atalanta and Liverpool at the Stadio di Bergamo, in Bergamo, Italy, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)

What will it take to win the English Premier League with six games remaining? That’s easy — perfection.

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool — all eliminated from their European competitions this week — are locked in a tight battle for the title.

Defending champion City leads both rivals by two points but with Pep Guardiola’s team playing an FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea on Saturday, Arsenal and Liverpool can gain ground.

“If you want to be champion in the Premier League, you have to be close to perfection,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said on Friday ahead of a visit to Fulham on Sunday.

“Anything other than perfect, you have to deal with the setbacks in the best possible way. That’s what we are now doing. We had a setback week,” he said. “Now we have to start turning it around.”

Arsenal, too.

Mikel Arteta’s team gets first crack at retaking the league lead when it visits Wolverhampton on Saturday.

Arsenal lost at home to Aston Villa 2-0 last Sunday and was eliminated from the Champions League by Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

“We don’t have to talk too much, it’s about showing against Wolves what we are made of to turn this situation around and it can look really positive,” Arteta said on Friday.

The second-place Gunners lead Liverpool on goal difference.

Like Arsenal, Klopp’s team lost ground to City last Sunday by losing at home to Crystal Palace 1-0. That was days after a surprise 3-0 loss to Atalanta at Anfield in the Europa League quarterfinals. The Reds won the second leg 1-0 in Bergamo but were still knocked out.

“The boys know that I don’t tell them things which I don’t believe in, and I’m 100% sure we can really win all the football games we have from now on,” Klopp said.

“If we would win all of our games, yeah, there’s a good chance that we will be champion. If not, then there’s a good chance somebody else is there. Maybe we only have to win five or whatever. Nobody knows. Who would have thought that Arsenal lose against Aston Villa? It just happens.”

City, bounced from the Champions League by Real Madrid on Wednesday, doesn’t play a Premier League game again until Thursday at Brighton.