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Benzema treble as Real Madrid beat UCL holders Chelsea, Bayern Munich lose



Benzema treble as Real Madrid beat UCL holders Chelsea, Bayern Munich lose

Karim Benzema scored back-to-back UEFA Champions League hat-tricks as record winners Real Madrid took a big step towards the semi-finals with a 3-1 victory at title-holders Chelsea on Wednesday.

France striker Benzema headed home twice within three minutes midway through the first half.

He completed his treble seconds after the restart owing to a terrible blunder from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Benzema had also scored a hat-trick in the previous game Real Madrid won with the same 3-1 scoreline, against Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in the last 16.

Kai Havertz was on target shortly before half-time for the Blues who eliminated Real Madrid in last year’s semi-finals.

They now face an uphill battle next week at the Bernabéu.

“They’re magic nights, like the other day at the Bernabéu against PSG.

Today (Wednesday) we came out to win, to show we’re Real Madrid,” Benzema later said.

There was more joy for Spain as Europa League winners Villarreal beat harmless Bayern Munich 1-0 with the goal from Arnaut Danjuma’s early strike.

It was their next upset bid following a last 16 elimination of Juventus.

The other two first-leg games were played on Tuesday, with Liverpool well placed winning 3-1 at Benfica while Manchester City edged Atletico Madrid 1-0.

Former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti tested negative just in time to make it to Stamford Bridge after a coronavirus infection at the helm of Real Madrid.

He then saw the unmarked Benzema head the opening goal in the 21st minute off a cross from Vinicius Junior who had hit the top of the bar earlier.

The goal rattled the Blues who had crashed 4-1 at the weekend against Brentford.

Three minutes later, Benzema wrong-footed Mendy by artistically heading Luka Modric’s cross into the far corner.

Havertz revived Chelsea’s hopes in the 40th minute when he headed in Jorginho’s chipped ball over the Real Madrid defence.

But Chelsea’s comeback attempt stalled seconds after the restart when Mendy made a mess out of a routine pass to Antonio Rüdiger.

It left Benzema with an easy shot into the empty net for his 11th goal of the competition.

Romelo Lukaku came on only to head wide from a perfect position in the culmination of Chelsea’s woes.

“It is a heavy loss.

It was one of the worst first halves that I saw from us here at Stamford Bridge,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel later said.

“If we keep playing like this … we will get hammered at Bernabeu.”

In Villarreal, Bayern Munich left-back Alphonso Davies played his first game of the year after heart issues but it was the hosts who drew first blood after eight minutes.

That was when Danjuma fired in a low shot to complete a slick move on the right wing with his sixth goal of the campaign.

Bayern Munich was out of sorts but lucky because Francis Coquelin was ruled offside before his seemingly attempted cross went in.

Also, Gerard Moreno was denied by the left post, and he then missed the empty net from his own half after a mistake from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

“It was a deserved defeat.

We weren’t good today.

We didn’t defend well and lost too many balls,” Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann said.

Forward Thomas Müller vowed: “We must now prepare for the return leg and hit back.”


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Argentina outclass Poland to advance, in spite of Messi’s penalty kick miss



Argentina outclass Poland to advance, in spite of Messi’s penalty kick miss

 Lionel Messi missed a first-half penalty kick but Argentina’s Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez scored in a 2-0 victory over Poland at Stadium 974 on Wednesday in Qatar.

The result however ensured that both teams booked their places in the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Argentina’s victory moved Lionel Scaloni’s side to the top of Group C and they will face Australia in the last 16.

Second-placed Poland, who qualified on goals difference after Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2-1, will take on reigning champions France.

Argentina took the lead just one minute into the second half when Mac Allister got on the end of Nahuel Molina’s cross.

In spite of making weak contact, he saw his shot creep over the line with Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

The goal was just a reward for Argentina who had dominated possession while Poland had barely managed to get out of their own half.

The South American side’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was a mere spectator for the majority of the game.

The second goal was the result of some patient build-up, where Argentina knocked the ball around before Enzo Fernandez unlocked the defence with a through-ball for Alvarez.

He found space in the penalty box and smashed the ball into the top corner.

Earlier, Poland was up in arms when Argentina was awarded a controversial penalty kick after a VAR check for a foul on Messi.

That was when Szczesny’s glove brushed his face as the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) forward rose up for a header at the far post.

But Szczesny was up to the task and in spite of the thousands of Argentina fans raising the decibel levels inside the arena, he kept his composure and guessed correctly.

He dived to his left and used one hand to swat aside Messi’s effort from the spot.

In spite of the miss, Messi ran the show for Argentina in a match where the two skippers represented FC Barcelona’s past and present.

With a last-16 spot and potential elimination both on the cards in a close group, it was Barca’s record goalscorer Messi who was at the heart of Argentina’s attacks.

He dictated play by dropping deep and tormented the Polish defence.

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, who has 18 goals in 19 games for Barca this season, did not have a single attempt on goal.

At the other end, Szczesny had been kept busy the entire half with the Poland defence breached time and again.

But the Juventus goalkeeper stood firm to deny Argentina who grew more confident with every attack.

He first denied Alvarez when the Manchester City forward broke through the offside trap.

Then, he tipped Angel Di Maria’s cross over the bar when his Juve teammate attempted to score directly from a corner kick.

But Szczesny could do nothing but scramble when Mac Allister took his shot even before Poland could settle down after the restart.

Alvarez’s shot for the second goal was too good for any goalkeeper.

“It’s so emotional for me, for the whole squad. It’s a dream come true,” Mac Allister told reporters.

“I debuted with this team, I’m so proud of that. And now managing to score in a World Cup —- I’m so happy.

“(After Messi’s penalty kick) we tried to stay positive, to stay calm. We did not feel down. We tried to be optimistic…Fortunately, we managed to win and go through.”

Argentina nearly made it 3-0 in second-half added time when Nicolas Tagliafico was released down the left and he chipped the ball over Szczesny.

But he saw Jakub Kiwior track back to make a timely intervention and head the ball off the line.

However, Argentina got what they wanted — leapfrogging Poland to take top spot in the group and avoid an early knockout fixture against mighty France.

Poland, meanwhile, will be relieved to reach the last 16 for the first time since 1986.

How They Finished in Group C

Team P W D L GF GA GD Pts

Argentina 3 2 0 1 5 2 +3 6

Poland 3 1 1 1 2 2 0 4

Mexico 3 1 1 1 2 3 -1 4

Saudi Arabia 3 1 0 2 3 5 -2 3

* Argentina and Poland advance to the second round

– Reuters

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Serbia and Cameroon draw 3-3 in game of two quick comebacks



Serbia and Cameroon draw 3-3 in game of two quick comebacks

Cameroon and Serbia produced one of the best games of the Qatar World Cup but a dramatic 3-3 draw on Monday did little for their hopes of last 16 qualifications.

Cameroon took the lead against the run of play in 29 minutes when Jean-Charles Castelletto tapped in at the far post following a flick-on from a corner.

But Serbia reacted with two quick-fire goals in first-half stoppage time from Strahinja Pavlovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

They kept up the pressure early in the second half and a well-worked move allowed Aleksandar Mitrovic to get a deserved goal.

But Cameroon substitute, Vincent Aboubakar changed the game again when he scooped the ball over the goalkeeper, assuming he was offside only to be ruled onside by the semi-automated system on 63 minutes.

Aboubakar repeated the trick in evading offside just three minutes later and squared for Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to tap home.

The draw gives both sides one point, with Brazil and Switzerland on three ahead of their meeting on Monday.

Serbia takes on the Swiss in their final group game on Friday when Cameroon plays the Brazilians.

“I am satisfied because my players showed real fighting spirit. We were two goals down and came back.

“ That is the spirit that was missing in the first game,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said, referencing the opening 1-0 defeat by Switzerland.

“The team showed the right reaction. There are still things to improve, but for today we are satisfied.”

Song made a big call before kick-off by choosing goalkeeper Devis Epassy ahead of Andre Onana, with media reports saying the Inter Milan stopper had been dropped for disciplinary reasons.

Serbia brought in fit-again winger Filip Kostic, after he missed the opening 2-0 defeat by Brazil.

The Europeans dominated the opening spell and striker Mitrovic had three chances, including one effort which came back off the post.

But out of the blue, Cameroon took the lead, with defender Castelletto popping up completely unmarked for his first international goal.

Pierre Kunde then missed a good chance for the Indomitable Lions before Serbia levelled just before half-time.

Dusan Tadic sent in a free-kick from a central position and the burly Pavlovic rose highest to power a header into the corner, as another defender netted from a set-piece.

There was even time for Milinkovic-Savic to find the net with a measured shot from the edge of the area, which Epassy could only get a hand to.

The Lazio midfielder has been linked with top European clubs for years but a move has never materialized.

Cameroon’s defence for both goals could be questioned as Serbia’s rapid turnaround gave a better reflection of the game until then.

But an inspired substitution from Song set up another comeback.

Forward Aboubakar entered the fray at 55 minutes and soon made a difference with his size and skill.

“We had some problems, but we always played to win and played a very good game in the end.

“We are super motivated before the game against Brazil. We will look for our chance,” said Aboubakar.

His casual lobbed finish for his goal may well only have come about because he thought he was offside.

Serbia was then left shell-shocked as he carefully played in Choupo-Moting, who famously skipped the 2017 African Nations Cup won by his team but is now very much part of the group again.

Mitrovic had the best chances for a winner but lacked composure. 

– dpa

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Ronaldo to leave Manchester United after criticising Club



Ronaldo to leave Manchester United after criticising Club

Manchester forward Cristiano Ronaldo will leave with immediateUnited effect, the English Premier League (EPL) club said on Tuesday.

The development marked a bitter end to the Portugal captain’s second spell at Old Trafford after he said he felt betrayed by the club.

An interview this month — in which Ronaldo also said he did not respect manager Erik ten Hag —- had put him on shaky ground at the club.

He rejoined the club in August 2021 after winning eight major trophies with them from 2003 to 2009.

Manchester United said last week they would address Ronaldo’s comments only after establishing the complete facts and added last Friday that they had initiated “appropriate steps” in response.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect.

“The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family well for the future,” Manchester United said in a statement.

“Everyone at Manchester United remains focused on continuing the team’s progress under Ten Hag and working together to deliver success on the pitch.”

Last month, Ten Hag said Ronaldo had refused to come on as a substitute against Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

This was when the forward walked down the tunnel with a few minutes of the game remaining after being put on the bench.

The 37-year-old was then not part of the squad which faced Chelsea the following Saturday before returning to the fold.

Ronaldo later said in the interview he regretted leaving early against Spurs, but added his decision to walk off came because he felt “provoked” by Ten Hag.

Ronaldo said in a statement on Tuesday that he loved the club and the fans.

“… That will never ever change,” he added. “However, it feels like the right time for me to seek a new challenge. I wish the team every success for the remainder of the season and for the future.”

Raphael Varane, Ronaldo’s French teammate at Manchester United, said last week that the Portuguese’s comments had affected the club’s players.

Many of them are also at the World Cup in Qatar.

Ronaldo confirmed on Monday that an awkward handshake between him and midfielder Bruno Fernandes that was caught on camera and went viral was the result of a joke.

He said the joke was between the Portugal and Manchester United teammates.

Ronaldo added that he did not believe his actions would affect Portugal’s squad, adding that he felt great about the country’s chances of winning the World Cup.

Portugal kicks off their campaign against Ghana on Thursday.


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