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La Liga: Benzema header beats Sevilla to breathe life back into Real Madrid



A towering header from Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid an impressive 1-0 win at Sevilla to go level on points at the top of La Liga on Sunday.

The slim victory offered the perfect response to their recent humiliating UEFA Champions League defeat at Paris St-Germain (PSG).

Benzema gave the visitors the lead against former Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla midway through the second half in a tense game.

The French striker timed his jump to perfection to meet a cross from Dani Carvajal on the byline and sent the ball high into the net.

Sevilla’s former Real Madrid striker Javier Hernandez put the ball in the net for the hosts late in the game but his effort was correctly ruled out for offside.

Real Madrid  hung on to claim their first win at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in five seasons.

The victory saw Real Madrid climb into second place on 11 points after five games, level with leaders Athletic Bilbao.

On the other hand, Sevilla tumbled from top spot at the start of the weekend to fifth on 10 points.(Reuters/)

(Edited by Olawale Alabi)


La Liga president admits match times could change in hot weather



La Liga has taken the unusual step of including temperature predictions in its fixture lists for the remainder of the Spanish football season.

Spanish players union AFE had voiced concern over players playing in extreme heat with the season now extended into the hottest months of the year in Spain.

But La Liga have taken steps to demonstrate that they will not put players’ health at risk from climatic conditions.

La Liga president Javier Tebas said: “We have worked with the historical (average for time of year) temperatures and with the 15-day forecast.”

Both numbers can be seen alongside each game in the fixture list on La Liga’s web page.

The kick-off time causing most concern is the 1 p.m. (1100 GMT) slot.

Tebas said: “We have seen that on the weekend of June 12 the weather is going to be cool. So, we have programmed games at 1 p.m.

“If the weather changes and the temperature rises, we will move the game to a 5 p.m. slot.

“The 1 p.m. slot is important for our partners (clients) abroad.”

Edited By: Olawale Alabi (NAN)

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La Liga announces fixtures as Spanish season re-start looms large



FC Barcelona will recommence their bid to defend the Spanish title on June 13 away to Real Mallorca, after a three-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organisers La Liga, while announcing this on Sunday, also said Real Madrid will host Eibar on June 14.

The season will however kick back into action with a local derby between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

There will be fixtures for the following seven days, after June 14, with Barca hosting Leganes on June 16 and Real Madrid playing at home to Valencia on June 18.

As in the Bundesliga, all La Liga matches until the end of the season will take place without spectators.

The German competition had earlier in May become the first major European league to start up again after being disrupted by the pandemic.

Barca were leading Real Madrid by two points after 27 matches when the campaign was postponed back in March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Organisers have only released scheduling details for the first two rounds of fixtures.

But La Liga chief Javier Tebas confirmed that there will be matches every day of the week until the season is completed on July 19.

Tebas also gave details of a planned tribute to those who have died from the pandemic, whereby fans will be encouraged to make audio recordings of themselves applauding the victims.

It will then be transmitted in the stadium and broadcast on television in the 20th minute of each match.

“Fans make football so special and, as they cannot be in the stadiums, we have created this initiative so they can play a part in the return of the competition and show their support for the heroes of COVID-19,” Tebas said.

“We want them to feel close to their clubs even though they will be in the stadiums making noise. This way, the players will also be able to hear the support of their fans.”

The Spanish top flight is poised to be the second of Europe’s top five leagues to resume after the Bundesliga.

England’s Premier League is re-starting on June 17 and Italy’s Serie A is kicking off again on June 20.

Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)


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La Liga clubs free to start full training from Monday



Clubs in Spain’s top two soccer divisions can hold full training sessions from Monday for the first time since returning to activity after action was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers La Liga have said.

“Clubs will begin collective training on June 1 after the government’s latest health order on the easing of restrictions,” La Liga said in a statement on Saturday.

Teams returned to individual training at the start of May before progressing to training in groups of up 10 players two weeks later, and groups of 14 players from last Monday.

The top flight will resume on June 11 without fans attending, with Sevilla taking on Real Betis, and with matches potentially to be played every day of the week until the season is concluded on July 19.

All organised football in Spain was provisionally suspended on March 12 as the virus ravaged the country, but the rate of infection has slowed significantly.

Thirty-nine people died in the last week compared with a daily death toll in the hundreds a month ago, the health ministry said on Friday.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/ (NAN)

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La Liga season returns on June 11



Spanish football’s top flight will resume after a three-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic on June 11, the government’s department for sports (CSD) said in a statement on Friday.

The La Liga will return with the local derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.

Meanwhile, league president Javier Tebas has outlined La Liga’ plans to offer viewers the chance to hear virtual crowd noise during the matches.

The matches have been scheduled to be played without supporters to prevent further spread of the virus.

“At a meeting of the contact group they form alongside the CSD, the Spanish football federation (RFEF) and La Liga have agreed to the format of the final 11 rounds of fixtures of La Liga and the second division,” said the CSD statement.

The statement added that the season would finish by July 18, “depending on the evolution of the virus”.

La Liga will be the second of Europe’s top five leagues to resume action after the pandemic paralysed all major sporting competitions around the world last March.

La Liga is following in the footsteps of Germany’s Bundesliga which returned earlier this month.

German broadcasters have reproduced fan noise for television viewers in order to make the matches in empty stadiums more appealing.

Tebas said the Spanish league are looking to use the same technology.

“Tonight we are doing audio-visual tests so that spectators will be able to choose between two backgrounds, the real one or one with fans and virtual sound,” Tebas told a forum organised by Spanish newspaper Marca on Friday.

In the Bundesliga, they have chosen to have virtual sound with a lot of success and we are working to try and have the same option.

“We want to give fans two options: silence or virtual sound. The tests that we have done are very interesting and surprising, but spectators will have both options.”

England’s Premier League will recommence on June 17 while Italy’s Serie A is set to continue on June 20.

France’s Ligue 1 was cancelled last month, with Paris St-Germain (PSG) declared champions.

Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

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Bundesliga: 10-man Leipzig held to 2-2 home draw by Hertha Berlin



RB Leipzig’s faint title hopes faded further as they fought out a 2-2 home draw with Hertha Berlin after conceding late equaliser from the penalty spot.

This was having been reduced to 10 men in see-saw Bundesliga encounter on Wednesday.

The result left Leipzig third on 55 points from 28 games, nine behind leaders Bayern Munich and two adrift of second-placed Borussia Dortmund, while Hertha moved up one place to 10th on 35 points.

The visitors took 10th-minute lead through Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic, on loan from Premier League Liverpool, before Lukas Klostermann levelled in the 24th and Marcel Halstenberg was dismissed in the 63rd for a second yellow card.

Patrik Schick netted a bizarre goal five minutes later, following goalkeeper error.

But Leipzig could not hold on as substitute Krzysztof Piatek earned a share of the spoils for the visitors with an 82nd-minute penalty.

Like all other Bundesliga matches, the clash was played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Grujic drew loud cheers from his team mates when he volleyed home a Marvin Plattenhardt corner from seven metres.

Klostermann levelled with superb header as he ghosted away from his markers at the near post.

He met Christopher Nkunku corner before Vedad Ibisevic skied his shot high and wide into the empty stands at the other end.

With Halstenberg dismissed for a second bookable foul, Schick gave Leipzig the lead thanks to howler by Hertha keeper Rune Jarstein, as the ball trickled out of his arms and over the line.

Hertha had the last laugh, however, as Matheus Cunha was fouled by Ademola Lookman and Poland striker Piatek sent home keeper Peter Gulacsi the wrong way with a perfect spot-kick.


Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

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All parties to conflict must fulfill obligations of protecting civilians under int’l law: Chinese envoy




UNITED NATIONS, May 27 (Xinhua)– A Chinese envoy said Wednesday that all parties to a conflict must fulfill their obligations of protecting civilians under international law, while stressing that the global community must address the root causes of conflicts and promote development for peace.

“All parties to a conflict must fulfill their obligations of protecting civilians under international law. The Geneva Convention, International Humanitarian Law and relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 1265, and other resolutions concerning women, children, medical personnel and missing persons, must be fully implemented,” Zhang Jun, China‘s permanent representative to the United Nations, said at the Security Council’s open video teleconferencing meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

“We urge all parties to a conflict to refrain from asymmetric use of force in densely populated areas. There should be zero tolerance of harming civilians. It is also critical for all parties to give special attention and care to vulnerable groups in particular women and children, and facilitate safe and unimpeded humanitarian access,” said the ambassador.

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic brings further risk to civilians in armed conflict, Zhang said that all parties should prioritize the interests of the people and take proactive measures to combat the virus.

“Unilateral sanctions severely undermine the capacity of vulnerable countries to respond to the pandemic, aggravating civilian sufferings. We call on relevant countries to lift unilateral sanctions immediately and join the global efforts of combating the virus, including by supporting the leading role of the World Health Organization,” said the envoy.

The best approach to protect civilians is to address the root causes of conflicts and promote development for peace, according to the ambassador.

“In many cases, absolute poverty and hunger induce violence and conflicts, which in turn undermine development and worsen poverty and food insecurity. Only by addressing the root causes can we break this vicious circle,” he noted.

“Sustainable and inclusive development is key to achieving long-term stability and sustaining peace. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must be effectively implemented, with poverty eradication as the first priority,” said Zhang.

“There are only 10 years left for us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. It is time for action. China firmly supports the secretary-general’s Decade of Action initiative, and calls on the international community to jointly pursue for innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development,” he said.

The Security Council should tirelessly prevent and peacefully resolve conflicts through political dialogue, mediation and negotiation. Preventing conflicts, reducing and resolving them by peaceful means are the most effective ways to protect civilians, Zhang said.

“At present, armed conflicts continue in some areas, resulting in a high number of civilian casualties. We urge all parties concerned to respond positively to the secretary-general’s call for a global ceasefire, and move toward political settlement through inclusive dialogue,” he said.

“The fundamental principles of international law, such as peaceful settlement of disputes, and the prohibition of the threat or use of force, must be upheld. Many of the prolonged conflicts are aftermath of violations to the UN Charter and other basic international law. For example, the people of Syria and Iraq have endured years of sufferings caused by the use of force unauthorized by the Security Council,” he said.

“This should not happen again,” the ambassador stressed.

National governments must bear the primary responsibility to protect their civilians, while UN peacekeeping operations should work closely with governments and follow strictly their mandate when fulfilling the responsibility to protect civilians, Zhang said.

“Any violation of international humanitarian law, such as threats or attacks against civilians in armed conflict, should be investigated and punished in accordance with the law,” he said.

“The protection of civilians should not be politicized or used as an excuse for interference in internal affairs, even regime change. Those who invoke international law must submit themselves to it. The Security Council should adopt a consistent position in all situations on its agenda. Double standards or selective approach will only damage the authority of the Council,” said Zhang.


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Leipzig Captain Poulsen out with ligament injury



RB Leipzig will be without Captain Yussuf Poulsen for at least part of the last seven matchdays of the season, the club said.

Poulsen suffered  a ligament injury on Sunday.

The 25-year-old forward was on target in their 5-0 demolition of Mainz 05 on Sunday and set up two more goals but was diagnosed with a ligament injury a day later.

Leipzig, who host Hertha Berlin on Wednesday, are third in the league on 54 points, seven behind leaders, Bayern Munich, and three off second-placed Borussia Dortmund, with seven games left in the campaign.

The Bundesliga had to break for more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed 10 days ago.

“Our forward Yussuf Poulsen sustained a ligament injury in his right ankle during the game against Mainz 05.

“He will be sidelined until further notice. That was the result of a scan on Monday,” the club said.

Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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La Liga president sets restart date while Sevilla players face fine for breaking rules




Spanish Football League (LaLiga) President, Javier Tebas commented on Monday that he hopes that professional football can restart on June 11.

Tebas made his declarations two days after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez confirmed that the government had given its permission for football to return in the week starting June 8.

“As clubs step up their training, there is the chance that Thursday, June 11 could see the first game back in La Liga,” said Tebas in declarations on Movistar TV.

The La Liga president said he would like that day to see just one game played and for that to be the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.

“I hope it is on Thursday 11 and 22.00 hours,” he explained, adding that this week the 42 teams in the Liga Santander and Liga SmartBank, will be able to step up training in groups of up to 14 players, although under the government’s de-escalation regulations, it won’t be until next week that “the full squads can work together.”

“We have to continue with maximum precaution, we have gone through difficult times in this crisis and we don’t want to go too quickly,” concluded Tebas.

The remaining 11 games of the season in both of Spain‘s professional divisions will be played behind closed doors.

Meanwhile several Sevilla players are under investigation after the publication of a photo showing them clearly breaking the strict protocols imposed by La Liga to try and avoid any players getting infected by the coronavirus.

The partner of Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega posted a photo on social media of himself and teammates Fran Vazquez, Lucas Ocampos and Luuk de Jong in a group of over 10 people enjoying a meal outside, clearly contravening social distancing regulations.

The players have apologized for their actions, but nevertheless face a severe fine.


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Bundesliga: Augsburg win as coach returns from toothpaste ban, RB Leipzig go third



Augsburg won 3-0 at sliding Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga on Sunday as coach Heiko Herrlich made a victorious debut in the dugout.

Herrlich was making his debut after a trip to buy toothpaste ruled him out of last weekend’s game.

RB Leipzig also got back to winning ways after three draws with a rampant 5-0 win at strugglers Mainz.

They moved back up to third in the table and thereby reignited their outside title hopes.

Timo Werner scored another hat-trick against Mainz to help send RB Leipzig seven points behind leaders Bayern Munich with seven games left this term.

Mainz are 15th and now three points above Fortuna Dusseldorf, who occupy the relegation play-off spot.

They could have closed the gap by more but for two late Cologne goals in a 2-2 draw at their derby rivals in the late game.

Dusseldorf’s Kenan Karaman netted with a deflected strike in the first half with Erik Thommy making it two shortly after Mark Uth’s weak penalty kick for Cologne was easily saved.

Cologne, who included Ismail Jakobs in the starting line-up after he recovered from Covid-19, stormed back through Anthony Modeste (88th minute) and Jhon Cordoba (90th min.).

At Schalke 04, a free-kick by Eduard Loewen and goals from Noah Sarenren Bazee and Sergio Cordova ended a run of six games without a win for 12th-placed Augsburg.

The hosts, who are in eighth position, failed to win for a ninth league match.

Schalke 04’s UEFA Europa League hopes took a knock after another dreadful display as both sides played their second game since a two-month coronavirus suspension.

Herrlich, appointed in March, took charge of an Augsburg match for the first time having sat out the 2-1 home defeat by Wolfsburg after breaking quarantine by going out to purchase toothpaste.

“It was a strange feeling in an empty stadium,” Herrlich told a news conference. “There is nothing to celebrate yet. We have achieved the turnaround. Now we have to push on.”

After a minute’s silence for victims of the pandemic, Augsburg kicked off opposite a familiar face.

On-loan Michael Gregoritsch led the line for Schalke 04 against his parent club, but he failed to shine.

Schalke 04 goalkeeper Markus Schubert was again preferred to Bayern Munich-bound Alexander Nuebel in spite of a shaky showing in last weekend’s 4-0 loss at derby rivals Borussia Dortmund.

He could do little about Loewen’s curling sixth minute free-kick, getting a fingertip to the ball as it flew in.

Schalke 04, who also lost Suat Serdar to a leg injury, huffed and puffed for a leveller but never came especially close.

Poor defending then allowed Sarenren Bazee to score his first Bundesliga goal with a crisp finish after a counter-attack on 76 minutes.

Cordova took advantage of more bad play in the backline to make it 3-0 in stoppage time.

“We expected something very different. I think we showed a reaction to the Borussia Dortmund defeat. But then there were individual mistakes,” said Schalke 04 captain Daniel Caligiuri.

After a great start to the season, RB Leipzig had looked far from title challengers immediately before and after the coronavirus hiatus.

But they quickly burst back to form against a hapless Mainz.

Werner slightly scuffed home Konrad Laimer’s pass on 11 minutes.

Yussuf Poulsen then headed in Marcel Sabitzer’s cross and Sabitzer got on the scoresheet himself from Poulsen’s lay-off on 36 minutes.

It was more of the same early in the second half with Germany forward Werner tapping in after a well-worked move.

He then hooked in a career-high 24th league goal of the season to match his triple from the 8-0 win in the home game against Mainz in November.

All Bundesliga games until the end of the season will be without fans to try to limit infection.

On Saturday, leaders Bayern Munich beat Eintracht Frankfurt 5-2 and second-placed Borussia Dortmund prevailed 2-0 at Wolfsburg ahead of the title-chasing duo meeting in Dortmund on Tuesday.

Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

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