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Arsenal stay top after thrilling draw at Liverpool

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Neither Liverpool or Arsenal were able to strike a title blow as they played out a frenetic draw at Anfield.

 

The Gunners started impressively and took the lead when defender Gabriel headed home skipper Martin Odegaard’s free-kick in just the fourth minute, but Liverpool rallied and – after being denied a penalty when Odegaard appeared to handle – they were level shortly before the half hour mark when Mo Salah beat Oleksandr Zinchenko and blasted in at David Raya’s near post.

 

In a match played on the edge throughout, Trent Alexander-Arnold smashed against the bar for Liverpool following a fast break, but neither side was able to grab a winner.

This is a fixture which looms large in Arsenal minds given some of their past experiences here, with Mikel Arteta himself once in a Gunners side beaten 5-1 after conceding four times in the first 20 minutes. In such trying matches the need for a ‘fast start’ is often spoken about, but it is the need for a smart one which is more important.

And Arsenal were smart here, locking onto Liverpool’s creative players and giving them very little opportunity to find a pass. They stifled their hosts, forced early set pieces and then punished a Reds side who were guilty of slack marking. Gabriel’s goal came after just four minutes, but it was coming.

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The goal understandably rocked Liverpool, but – backed by a raucous Anfield crowd who had been paying attention to Jurgen Klopp’s plea for atmosphere – they are smart enough team to work their way back into any match.

 

The game was on something of a knife edge with a frenetic beat, but Salah is cooler than most in those situations, and he knew he was getting the better of Zinchenko. Alexander-Arnold’s ball sent the Egyptian away and when he cut inside there was only one outcome when he drew back that famous left foot. Parity.

 

It was a game being played at a remarkable pace throughout, but especially so after Salah’s goal, with last ditch interceptions often needed to prevent fast breaks from either side and Arsenal’s wide men in particular looking very dangerous.

 

Bukayo Saka was ultimately too dangerous for Kostas Tsimikas and Klopp as he sent the Greek into his manager on the touchline, with the latter sustaining what looked to be another shoulder injury for a Liverpool left-back. It was a sign of just what was on the line for these two in a Premier League title race both will think they can win.

READ  Not GUNNER catch us! Arsenal beat Leicester 1-0 to secure huge three points

 

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The speed of the game really was quite remarkable, and perhaps it played a part in the odd decision not to take another look at Odegaard seemingly handling the ball in the Arsenal penalty area as his side led 1-0, with the lack of a VAR intervention looking more and more curious with each and every viewing of it.

 

Being a centre-back for a top level football team is hard work these days. Gone is the time of the yard dogs and the stoppers, and they’ve been replaced by the need to be a physical specimen who can seriously move.

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Ibrahima Konate is just that, and the young Frenchman – who hasn’t perhaps shown his best form for much of this season – was terrific here as a last line of defence for several Arsenal attacks, often nicking the ball away from a Gunner at the vital moment. Gabriel was impressive for the visitors too, as we were treated to an exhibition of very modern defending.

 

So who does this draw benefit the most then? Probably Manchester City, in truth. Of the two sides involved it is of course a better one for Arsenal, with Liverpool particularly liable to lament that Alexander-Arnold chance which crashed against the bar.

Arsenal gained a good foothold in the game’s closing stages too though and so they will also have regrets, but overall it was a exhibition of two sides who will be there for the duration this season whatever happens with City. The race is very much on.

 

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Leverkusen win first Bundesliga title, break Bayern’s 11-year run

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Bayer Leverkusen lifted the Bundesliga title for the first time in their 120-year history on Sunday, a 5-0 victory over Werder Bremen breaking Bayern Munich’s 11-year stranglehold on the German top flight.

 

Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen knew victory would secure the title with five games to spare, but there were no signs of nerves in a dominant performance.

A hat-trick from Florian Wirtz and goals from Victor Boniface and Granit Xhaka extended their unbeaten run to a stunning 43 games in all competitions.

 

Leverkusen’s maiden title, coming after five second-place finishes in their history, keeps their dream of a remarkable treble alive while shedding their unwanted ‘Neverkusen’ nickname for good.

 

With 10 minutes to go, the long-suffering fans began making their way to the sidelines and a few jumped the gun, storming the pitch with the match still ongoing.


Leverkusen fans celebrate after the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Werder Bremen in Leverkusen, western Germany, on April 14, 2024. Bayer Leverkusen were crowned 2023-24 Bundesliga champions for the first time on April 14, 2024. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP)

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Leverkusen’s players ushered the fans back and some obliged, albeit briefly, with the stands swiftly emptying on the 90-minute mark as tearful fans made their way onto the grass to celebrate with the players.

Leverkusen are now on 79 points — the best tally after 29 games in German league history — and are 16 clear of second-placed Bayern and third-placed Stuttgart.

The Leverkusen bus arrived at the stadium 90 minutes before kick-off, wading through a sea of fans clad in black and red on the way to the 30,000-capacity BayArena.

 

Normally known as Bismarck Street, fans had stuck temporary signs saying ‘Xabi Alonso Street’ along the main road in honour of the club’s coach.

 

Alonso looked ahead to Thursday’s Europa League trip to London to face West Ham, making seven changes to his starting XI and benching stars Wirtz, Jeremie Frimpong and Alex Grimaldo, the latter for the first time in the league this season.

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Piero Hincapie, Grimaldo’s replacement, had an early effort at goal saved but it would be the fit-again Boniface, making his first start since mid-December, who put the home side in front.

With 22 minutes gone, Jonas Hofmann was felled in the box by Bremen’s Julian Malatini, with the referee pointing to the spot after VAR urged him to view the contact again on the monitor.

 

Boniface stepped up and nervelessly slotted the penalty past a helpless Michael Zetterer to send the home fans into raptures.

 

Hofmann was almost the provider again shortly before half-time, his pass finding Amine Adli who fired against the crossbar.

 

Bremen started the second-half strongly but their hopes of spoiling the party were snuffed out on the 60-minute mark, Boniface finding Xhaka who unleashed a long-range rocket before slapping his badge in front of the ecstatic home fans.

Wirtz, who came on at half-time for Adli, replicated Xhaka’s effort eight minutes later from almost the same spot on the pitch.

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Wirtz added another with seven minutes remaining before sealing his hat-trick in the 90th minute as Leverkusen rid themselves of their nearly men tag in style.

 

Earlier on Sunday, a 36th-minute goal from Ritsu Doan took Freiburg to a 1-0 win at Darmstadt, pushing the last-placed hosts closer to immediate relegation.

 

Winless since October and with only two victories all year, the loss leaves Darmstadt dead last, eight points from second-last and 13 points from safety with five games remaining.

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BREAKING: Super Falcons qualify for olympics first time in 16 years

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Nigeria’s female national football team, Super Falcons have qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

 

Nigeria beat South Africa 1-0 on aggregate to reach the Summer Olympics.

 

Rasheedat Ajibade scored from the spot in the first leg of the qualifiers in Abuja on Friday.

That goal was enough for the Super Falcons to pick one of Africa’s tickets for the women’s football event of the Paris Olympics as the second leg tie ended goaless in South Africa.

 

The last time Nigeria’s Super Falcons reached the Olympics was 16 years ago.

 

 

READ  Arsenal's top-four hopes receive major boost with dramatic win over Wolves
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Arsenal go top after 3-0 win over Brighton

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Arsenal continued to do their part in the Premier League’s three-way title race as goals in each half saw them get the better of Brighton at the Amex Stadium.

After a hard-fought opening half hour, Arsenal struck first when Bukayo Saka put away a penalty. The England international sent Bart Verbruggen the wrong way, stepping up after Gabriel Jesus bamboozled Tariq Lamptey to earn the spot-kick.

Mikel Arteta’s team chased a second after the break, with Verbruggen needing to be alert to deny Martin Odegaard, but they finally got the breakthrough just after the hour mark when Kai Havertz tapped home from close range.


Leandro Trossard came off the bench to make it three against his former club, and the result was enough to ensure Arteta’s men returned to the top of the table ahead of Sunday’s fixtures. Liverpool can reclaim top spot with three points away to Manchester United, but the pressure is very much on.

 

Arsenal almost went in front inside two minutes, with Gabriel beating Bart Verbruggen to a Martin Odegaard free-kick but heading wide. The Gunners had some issues with quick Brighton breaks, with Julio Enciso sending one chance high over the bar.

The returning Saka then went close to breaking the deadlock, cutting inside and curling just wide, and the winger later fed Gabriel Jesus for a shot which was kept away well by Verbruggen. It was those two who combined for the spot-kick which gave Arsenal the lead, though the visitors needed a big hand from David Raya to deny Julio Enciso and keep it 1-0 at the break.

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There was still a sense Arsenal might need a second, and there was no chance of a Brighton comeback after Havertz slotted home. Trossard’s goal will have been a sweet moment for the Belgian, once of Brighton, and another boost for Arsenal’s goal difference.


A comfortable away win was the perfect response after title rivals Manchester City won earlier in the day, and puts the pressure on Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford on Sunday. Here are Mirror Football’s talking points from the Saturday evening game at the Amex Stadium.

 

While some of the changes made by Mikel Arteta were predictable, there had been doubts over the availability of Bukayo Saka. The wide man missed the midweek win over Luton after leaving the field early against Manchester City,

The England star might have been off the boil a little at the Etihad Stadium, but there were few signs of his injury issues this time around. Saka was active early on in some of Arsenal’s best attacking work, and was the coolest man on the field as he tucked away his penalty.

Arsenal only got an hour out of Saka in the end, with the winger making way in a double change shortly after the second goal went in. With some huge games on the horizon, beginning with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, they’ll want to avoid taking too many risks where possible.

READ  Arsenal send strong message with dominant win over Everton


While Gabriel Jesus’ part in the penalty was the biggest one, it wouldn’t have been possible without the input of goalkeeper David Raya. The Spaniard set his team-mates downfield when he threaded the eye of the needle with a risky pass out from the back, but sometimes you need risk for reward.

 

There were questions asked of Raya early on in his time in North London, but these are the moments he was signed for. Arsenal might not have immediately scored from the attack, but it allowed them to pin their opponents back before getting Jesus one-on-one with Lamptey and able to take full advantage.

The save Raya made to deny Enciso a minute from the break is something which backup Aaron Ramsdale will feel he’s also capable of producing. The distribution is a different matter, though.

Roberto De Zerbi has made no secret of Brighton’s injury problems, and there are two ways in which those issues manifest. It’s not just being robbed of players mid-game, but also the challenge in keeping a consistent line-up throughout the season.


Julio Enciso impressed going forward, while Jakub Moder threatened for the hosts early on. Both are recently back from long-term absences, though, meaning the individual moments aren’t always matched by consistent fluidity.

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Roberto De Zerbi’s side only have two bottom-half teams to face between now and the end of the season. If they can’t rediscover their impressive early-season form before the worst of the injury crisis hit, it could be an underwhelming end to the campaign.

 

Brighton got plenty of change out of their right flank in the first half, with Oleksandr Zinchenko seemingly identified as a potential weak link. There was another shaky moment early in the second period, again unpunished, but Mikel Arteta might not have been delighted with what he saw.

Going into the game, Arsenal hadn’t conceded an away league goal since the end of January. It’s clear teams have found it tough to get at them, but Arteta – ever the perfectionist – will want to cut out even the smallest openings as far as the league’s best defence is concerned.

 

Perhaps he saw it as a trade-off, though. Yes, Zinchenko was relatively isolated by Gabriel Jesus’ high starting point on the left-flank, but Arsenal took advantage of this to get their noses in front and stayed there.

The pressure was on Arsenal after Manchester City’s lunchtime win at Selhurst Park. City trailed early on against Crystal Palace, but their response was one of a team who don’t look like drawing another blank in a hurry after their stalemate against the Gunners.

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