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Ruthless Man City go top with statement win at Arsenal

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Ruthless Man City go top with statement win at Arsenal

Clinical Manchester City knocked Arsenal off their Premier League perch as second-half goals by Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland earned the champions a 3-1 victory in a crunch top-of-the-table clash at The Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Arsenal had come from a goal down and looked capable of ending a 10-game losing streak in the league against City but they ultimately came up short as their hopes of a first league title since 2004 suffered a setback.

Mikel Arteta’s side, top of the standings since August, hit back strongly after Kevin de Bruyne’s 24th-minute opener and were deservedly level through Bukayo Saka’s penalty.

But they struggled to maintain the intensity after the break and hardly helped themselves with a succession of errors.

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City had a penalty overturned by VAR but kept probing and took the lead when Grealish fired in his third league goal of the season in the 72nd minute.

Haaland then netted his 26th league goal of the campaign to silence the home crowd and put Pep Guardiola’s side on 51 points, the same as Arsenal but with a superior goal difference.

Arsenal’s first home defeat of the season felt like a pivotal moment in the title race, although with a game in hand they are still very much in contention.

After picking up only one point from their last three games, however, they need to regain re-boot quickly.

“If you give three goals away the way we did that gives them the game. It’s a shame because we really had them,” Arteta said.

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“The margin for error against them is virtually zero. We did a lot of simple things wrong.”

Guardiola said his side were “soft” in the first half but praised the way they stepped up.

“They were better than us in the first half but we stepped forward in the second and were still in it and in the end the quality of the players made the difference,” he said.

Arteta sprung a surprise by selecting Takehiro Tomiyasu ahead of Ben White at right back while Jorginho came in for the injured Thomas Partey for his first start since arriving from Chelsea in the January transfer window.

WOEFUL PASS

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Arteta’s decision blew up in his face as Japan international Tomiyasu was pressured into a woeful back pass by Grealish and De Bruyne seized on it before dispatching a silky lobbed finish over a stranded Aaron Ramsdale.

Far from knocking the stuffing out of Arsenal, however, the hosts responded by seizing control in midfield as City looked flustered and bizarrely seemed intent on wasting time.

Tomiyasu volleyed a chance over and Saka had another opportunity but delayed his shot too long.

In the 39th minute, Eddie Nketiah, who earlier headed a chance wide, was played through and flicked a shot goalwards just before being clattered by City’s keeper Ederson.

Nathan Ake hooked the ball off the line but referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot for Ederson’s foul and Saka coolly tucked his penalty past the Brazilian.

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City almost regained the lead in first-half stoppage time when Ruben Dias’s header was flicked on to the crossbar by Ake.

Surprisingly, Arsenal self-destructed after the break and had one let-off when Gabriel pulled back Haaland to concede a penalty but a VAR check ruled the Norwegian was offside.

Nketiah was inches away from giving Arsenal the lead when he slid in to try to connect with a low cross but City began to dominate as Arsenal faded.

Gabriel was guilty of dithering on the ball on the edge of his penalty area and was robbed by Bernardo Silva before Haaland’s pass reached Grealish who fired past Ramsdale.

This time there was no response from Arsenal and Haaland, who was an injury doubt ahead of the game, sealed victory with a typically ruthless finish eight minutes from time.

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Moment of truth for revamped Italy as Euros title defence begins

Moment of truth for revamped Italy as Euros title defence begins

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Moment of truth for revamped Italy as Euros title defence begins

Italy kick off their European Championship title defence against Albania on Saturday as a new-look team tries to rebuild the reputation of one of the world’s most important football nations.

Luciano Spalletti’s Italy take on Albania in Dortmund in the first of three clashes in a fiendishly difficult Group B which also contains Spain and Croatia.

And those two later fixtures make Saturday’s hugely important, as with the four best third-place finishers in the six groups reaching the knockout stages, a win over Albania would give Italy a great chance of going through.

Italy come into the tournament in quietly confident mood, with delegation chief Gianluigi Buffon insisting that the Azzurri are “an underrated team” despite being holders and four-time World Cup winners.

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Buffon was one of the stars of the show when Italy won the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when a golden generation of players including Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Cannavaro took their country to one of its greatest ever football triumphs.

Since then the national team has been going through something of an identity crisis, unsure of its position in the global game and no longer feared as in decades past.

Italy might be reigning champions but after winning the last Euros three years ago they missed out on qualification for a second straight World Cup.

And qualification for this summer’s Euros, which begins on Friday, was complicated by Spalletti’s predecessor Roberto Mancini jumping ship to Saudi Arabia in August last year.

‘Future greats’

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Spalletti has been entrusted to guide his nation out of another bout of deep soul searching and he has done so by casting aside the team which became national heroes by beating England at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final.

“I can see that we have players in the squad who will become future greats. They have the quality,” Federico Chiesa said on Thursday in an interview with UEFA. “We want to show what we’re made of at the Euros. Let’s see what we can do.”

Juventus forward Chiesa is one of the few graduates of the victory in 2021 still assured of a starting place, alongside Nicolo Barella, assuming he recovers in time from a thigh injury.

Spalletti is also sweating on the fitness of Barella’s Inter Milan teammate Davide Frattesi, who scored Italy’s only goal in Sunday’s encouraging warm-up win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Albania meanwhile are taking part in just their second Euros and the Eagles will be swept along by the enthusiasm of their supporters.

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Armand Duka, the head of Albania’s football federation, claimed in an interview with Sky that “more than half” of the Westfalenstadion will be taken up by his countrymen.

And with 10 of Sylvinho’s squad playing in Italy, there will be plenty of familiar faces for the Azzurri to deal with. “Italy will be a special match. In Dortmund we will play probably the most important match of our lives,” said Duka.

“We’d be delighted to get out of the group, but we’ll be happy in any case just to have taken part in the Euros.” 

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Lee leads LPGA Meijer Classic by two

Lee leads LPGA Meijer Classic by two

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Lee leads LPGA Meijer Classic by two

Alison Lee fired a seven-under-par 65 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the LPGA Tour’s Meijer Classic on Thursday.

The 29-year-old from California relied on a red-hot putter and a steadily improving swing to reel off seven birdies and an eagle to pull clear of a crowded leaderboard.

Lee, who is still looking for her first victory on the LPGA Tour just under a decade after joining the professional ranks, revealed afterwards she spent the build-up to this week’s tournament in Michigan attempting to iron out kinds in her swing.

Yet despite long hours on the driving range last week, she remained uncomfortable even after teeing off at Blythefield Country Club on Thursday in suburban Grand Rapids. “There can be some days I don’t feel quite confident,” Lee said after her round.

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“You just have to work with what you got. That’s how I felt today. As the round went on I would say the last four, five holes, definitely felt a lot better with my swing.”

The highlight of Lee’s round came on her penultimate hole, the par-five eighth, where she nailed an eight-iron to within 15 feet with her second shot, before rolling in the eagle putt.

“It was definitely really nice to shoot a low one today,” Lee said. “Giving a lot of credit to my putter. I made a lot of really, really good par saves, and a lot of good birdies. “Overall really happy and pleasantly surprised about my round.”

No fewer than nine players are tied for second place behind Lee on five under after shooting 67s. The chasing pack includes Canada’s Brooke Henderson, who eagled the 18th to move up the leaderboard. Eleven players are a further shot back on four under.

This week’s tournament is the final tune-up before next week’s Women’s PGA Championship, which is being held at the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington from June 20-23. 

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Haidar Sultan grabs gold medal in Brics Games

Haidar Sultan grabs gold medal in Brics Games

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Haidar Sultan grabs gold medal in Brics Games

 Haidar Sultan of Pakistan has bagged the first gold medal in the Weightlifting event of the Brics Games at the Kazan city of Rusia.

Sultan, who outclassed the Russian weightlifters in a tough fight and won the first gold medal for Pakistan in the Games, said a press release.

He contested in the 61kg weight category and lifted a total weight of 261kg i.e. 115kg in Snatch and 146kg in the Clean & Jerk.

It was his outstanding performance at any national or international competition. Sultan was far behind his Russian competitors in the Snatch event, but his third and final lift of 146 kg in the clean & jerk event turned conclusive, for his maiden victory at the international BRICS Games.

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Sultan was accompanied by the seasoned and professional coach Shuja Ud Din Malik, who himself had been the Commonwealth Games 2006 Gold Medalist and Record holder.

The motivation by Imdaullah Meman, the chef-de-mission, and the technical expertise of the coach Shuja ud Din Malik, maintained the fighting spirit of the Sultan, who was very happy about his victory.

Sultan thanked Pakistan Sports Board PSB for the financial and administrative support for the tour. Sultan hails from Gujranwala district of Punjab and represents the Pakistan Army at the national level. 

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