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Portugal Edge Out The Netherlands To Win First Nations League

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Portugal added the inaugural Nations League title to their Euro 2016 triumph as Goncalo Guedes’s strike on the hour won an underwhelming final 1-0 against the Netherlands in Porto on Sunday.

The Dutch defensive pairing of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt largely kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet, but Valencia winger Guedes proved the match winner as his shot had too much power for Jasper Cillessen in the Netherlands goal.

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Man City Trounce Brighton, Retain Premier League Title

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Manchester City retained the Premier League title in style on Sunday, holding their nerve to come from behind against Brighton and see off a charging Liverpool after a thrilling campaign.

Pep Guardiola’s team thumped Brighton 4-1 away to finish on 98 points —  the second-highest total in Premier League history — as Liverpool beat Wolves 2-0 at Anfield to finish a single, agonising, point adrift.

City, who strung together 14 league wins at the end of the season, are the first side to retain the title since their bitter rivals Manchester United managed the feat in 2009, and remain on course for the first domestic treble in English football history.

But Guardiola’s team of aristocrats did not have it all their own way on a day of drama on England’s south coast in keeping with an astonishing season in which the lead switched hands time after time.

Liverpool drew first blood on Sunday, with Sadio Mane striking in the 17th minute to put them mathematically top of the table and on course for their first English top-flight title since 1990, before the Premier League era even started.

City fans’ nerves were shredded even further when Glenn Murray put Brighton in front from a corner in the 27th minute, resulting in a huge roar at Anfield.

But those cheers were quickly muted, with Guardiola’s side level just 83 seconds later, Aguero staying onside and keeping his cool to finish after a brilliant ball from David Silva.

Ten minutes later, the unmarked Aymeric Laporte rose to head in Riyad Mahrez’s corner to complete the turnaround for City.

Guardiola’s side continued to dominate at the start of the second half and were rewarded when Mahrez smashed in a third goal with 27 minutes to go.

Ilkay Gundogan then blasted home a free-kick to put the result beyond doubt.

– Record-breakers –

City broke a host of Premier League records in romping to the title last season, becoming the first team in English top-flight history to reach 100 points and finishing a record 19 points clear of closest rivals Manchester United.

This term has been a totally different campaign, with Guardiola’s men forced to dig deep to see off the relentless challenge of Liverpool, who have lost just one Premier League game all season.

The champions have ground out a number of 1-0 victories in recent weeks, showing they have added steel to their style.

The outcome was cruel on Liverpool, who are second behind only United in the all-time list of English champions with 18 titles, although the last came in 1990.

The Merseysiders’ points tally is the third-highest in Premier League history.

Jurgen Klopp’s side travelled to face City at the Etihad in January with the chance to open up a 10-point lead but the defending champions won 2-1 in what turned out to be the pivotal match of the campaign.

Liverpool suffered a blip in late January and February, held to a series of draws, but they found their form again and relentlessly harried City, finishing with nine straight league wins.

Klopp’s team will have to put the disappointment behind them as they prepare to face Premier League rivals Spurs in the Champions League final in Madrid on June 1.

Elsewhere on the final day of Premier League action, Tottenham made mathematically certain of a place in the top four, drawing 2-2 against Everton.

Arsenal beat Burnley 3-1 while fellow Europa League finalists Chelsea were held to a goalless draw at Leicester.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United finished their season with a whimper, losing 2-0 at home to relegated Cardiff.

There were also wins for Crystal Palace, Newcastle and West Ham. Southampton and Huddersfield drew 1-1.

AFP

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Liverpool Bash Barcelona 4-0 To Reach Champions League Final

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Liverpool produced one of the most stunning comebacks in Champions League history as Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum scored twice to beat Barcelona 4-0 and progress to the final for the second consecutive year 4-3 on aggregate on Tuesday.

The Reds not only had a mountain to climb on the scoreboard but were deprived of two of their most potent attacking weapons in Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino due to injury.

However, Origi and substitute Wijnaldum were the unlikely heroes as Barca surrendered a three-goal first-leg lead to exit the Champions League for the second straight season.

Despite the despondency of losing Salah and Firmino, Jurgen Klopp’s men never lost faith and were accompanied by a typically raucous Anfield atmosphere on a European night.

Origi would almost certainly not have started had Salah and Firmino been fit.

But the Belgian has made a habit of scoring important goals in Liverpool’s challenge for a first Premier League title in 29 years and he had his first ever in the Champions League on seven minutes on the rebound after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had denied Jordan Henderson’s purposeful burst from midfield.

Liverpool have blown plenty of sides away in early bursts under Klopp, most notably hitting three inside the first half-hour at Anfield against Manchester City in last season’s Champions League quarter-final.

Barca looked rattled as Sergi Roberto’s short backpass nearly played Origi in.

However, the visitors soon started to pose a threat themselves in search of the away goal that would kill the tie.

Lionel Messi had turned the tie in Barcelona’s favour late in the first leg with a brilliant free-kick and his first effort was tipped over by Alisson Becker before the Brazilian denied international teammate Philippe Coutinho.

Another former Liverpool favourite Luis Suarez promised not to celebrate if he scored on his former stomping ground, but there was no love lost for the Uruguayan among the home faithful as he was showered with abuse after trying to buy cheap free-kicks.

Ter Stegen nervously parried an Andy Robertson drive and Alisson saved from Jordi Alba at the end of a pulsating first half.

Liverpool were seemingly dealt another injury blow as Robertson could not continue after half-time, but he made way for Wijnaldum with James Milner moving to left-back.

Alisson made another important save from Suarez before Wijnaldum sent Anfield wild twice inside two minutes.

Firstly, the Dutch midfielder was picked out by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross and drilled under Ter Stegen.

And from Liverpool’s next attack, Shaqiri picked out Wijnaldum to head home at the Kop end.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde tried to restore some order as Coutinho, who cost £142 million ($186 million) when moving between the clubs in January 2018, was replaced for the second time in the tie by Nelson Semedo to allow the visitors to switch to a four-man midfield.

The change briefly had an impact, but Barca were inexplicably caught cold from a quick Alexander-Arnold corner 11 minutes from time that picked out Origi completely unmarked to fire high past Ter Stegen.

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Champions League: Ajax Beat Tottenham In London

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Ajax closed in on a first Champions League final for 23 years as Donny van de Beek’s early goal beat an injury-hit Tottenham 1-0 in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday.

Van de Beek’s opener on 15 minutes was just rewarded for the Dutch side’s first-half dominance as Tottenham badly missed the presence of the injured Harry Kane and suspended Son Heung-min.

Tottenham improved after the break despite another injury blow as Jan Vertonghen had to be helped down the tunnel after a sickening head knock, but lacked the inspiration needed to get back on level terms without their two top scorers.

And Ajax could easily have had an even greater lead to take back to the Johan Cruyff Arena for the second leg next week when David Neres hit the post 10 minutes from time.

Ajax had shown they are not fazed on the road despite the tender age of many of their squad by shocking Real Madrid and Juventus away to reach the last four and started confidently.

Spurs were happy to sit deep and wait for their chances to counter-attack, but that gameplan was undone when Hakim Ziyech’s through ball picked out midfielder Van de Beek who took his time to leave Hugo Lloris prone before slotting into the bottom corner.

Lloris kept his side in the game 10 minutes later from another Van de Beek effort as Ajax threatened to run riot.

Fernando Llorente was the hero with the decisive goal as Mauricio Pochettino’s men upset the odds to end Manchester City’s quest for a quadruple of trophies in the quarter-finals.

However, the cumbersome Spaniard struggled to provide the out ball his side needed to relieve the Ajax pressure.

Set-pieces provided Tottenham’s best chance of scoring before the break as Llorente headed wide and Toby Alderweireld over from Kieran Trippier free-kicks.

On top of Kane and Son, Spurs were shorn of the injured Erik Lamela and Harry Winks and lost another key player when Vertonghen came off worst as he contested a high ball with Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana.

The Belgian was patched up and briefly returned to the field before having to be helped down the tunnel with questions sure to be asked why the Spurs medical staff allowed him to continue.

Despite that latest blow, the hosts reacted well to end the half on top with Vertonghen’s replacement Moussa Sissoko driving a long-range effort wide.

Pochettino’s half-time pep talk had the desired effect as Spurs dug deep into their energy reserves to raise the tempo and intensity of their display after the break.

Yet, the quality needed in the final third to get back on level terms was missing without Kane and Son.

A sweetly struck shot Christian Eriksen shot that was too close to Onana was the best effort they could muster as too often hopeful crosses into the box failed to find a teammate.

Ajax did not make the most of their chances on the break to kill the tie off, but were unfortunate when Neres’s effort back across Lloris left the French captain helpless only for the ball to rebound kindly off the post.

Son will be back for the trip to Amsterdam next Wednesday and Spurs will hope the South Korean can repeat his double away to City in the last eight, but Ajax are in pole position for a final against Barcelona or Liverpool come June 1 in Madrid.

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