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Amazing matches highlight epic Champions League season

GENEVA: Remarkably and improbably, it will be Liverpool and Tottenham playing for the Champions League title on June 1. The all-English final in Madrid seemed all but impossible before back-to-back, second-half comebacks in both semifinals. It was a fitting way for the finalists to emerge from a dramatic knockout phase. Here’s a look at some…

Amazing matches highlight  epic Champions League season

GENEVA: Remarkably and improbably, it will be Liverpool and Tottenham playing for the Champions League title on June 1.

The all-English final in Madrid seemed all but impossible before back-to-back, second-half comebacks in both semifinals.

It was a fitting way for the finalists to emerge from a dramatic knockout phase.

Here’s a look at some of the best games from this season’s Champions League:

Real Madrid-Ajax

Consecutive defending champion Real Madrid was a huge favorite to reach the quarterfinals after beating Ajax 2-1 in the first leg in Amsterdam. But a young, vibrant Ajax team ended Madrid’s reign in a 4-1 rout that set the tone for the rest of the competition — no storied club was safe, not even on home turf.

Madrid’s humiliation was highlighted by how captain Sergio Ramos came to miss the second leg.

Ramos committed a 90th-minute foul in Amsterdam to intentionally get a yellow card. He had calculated that a suspension from the return match was worth clearing his disciplinary record for the matches to come.

Paris Saint-Germain-Manchester United

One day later, video review (VAR) helped Manchester United pull off another comeback win.

United, revitalized by interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after grim times under Jose Mourinho, faced Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 trailing by two goals and with Paul Pogba suspended.

A pair of first-half goals from Romelu Lukaku gave United hope, and the 3-1 victory was secured by a stoppage-time penalty from Marcus Rashford.

But the drama came from how the penalty was awarded, using technology UEFA had only weeks earlier decided to include.

Diogo Dalot’s long-range shot seemed to be heading high over the goal until the ball hit the arm of PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe.

The penalty was given after a lengthy review.

Manchester City-Tottenham

Another game ultimately decided by video review — overturning what even Tottenham thought was a stoppage-time goal by Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling — came in the quarterfinals.

There were three lead changes early in the match and a Champions League record five goals in the first 21 minutes.

Man City were set to advance when Sergio Aguero made it 4-2 in the 59th minute, but Tottenham regained control in the 73rd when Fernando Llorente scored with his hip to make it 4-3. That goal stood after a review for possible handball.

The stadium later erupted, with City manager Pep Guardiola galloping down the touchline in ecstatic leaps, when Sterling scored after a misplaced pass by Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen sent Aguero clear.

Unnoticed at first, Eriksen’s pass had glanced off a City player’s leg. Aguero was offside, the goal was disallowed, and Tottenham was reprieved.

Liverpool-Barcelona

To reach the final, Liverpool had to overturn a three-goal deficit against a Barcelona team led by Lionel Messi.

And they had to do it without two of their top forwards, injured teammates Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. But if it was going to happen anywhere, it would be under the floodlights on a European soccer night at Anfield.

Stand-in striker Divock Origi scored early, and halftime substitute Georginio Wijnaldum quickly added two more to make it 3-3 on aggregate.

Barcelona eventually was eliminated when 20-year-old Liverpool fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold tricked a sleeping defense. His quick pass from a corner found Origi for the winning goal.

Ajax-Tottenham

In a competition where big leads have had a habit of disappearing, Tottenham pulled of the final trick with almost the final kick.

Ajax won in London 1-0 in the first leg and scored two more in the first half on Wednesday.

Then came Lucas Moura, who might not even have played if Tottenham striker Harry Kane hadn’t been injured. The Brazil forward scored in the 55th and 59th minutes to spark the revival.

Incredibly, euphorically, Moura scored again in the sixth minute of stoppage time, giving his team an astonishing 3-2 win and leaving Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino on his knees and in tears on the field.

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Qatar in talks to buy stake in Leeds United

DUBAI: Qatar is in talks to buy a stake in UK football club Leeds United, the Financial Times reported. Leeds United plays in the second tier of English professional football, the Championship, and will be Qatar Sports Investment’s (QSI) first venture into British football. It currently controls France’s Paris Saint-Germain. “Qatar Sports Investments will be…

Qatar in talks to buy stake in Leeds United

DUBAI: Qatar is in talks to buy a stake in UK football club Leeds United, the Financial Times reported.

Leeds United plays in the second tier of English professional football, the Championship, and will be Qatar Sports Investment’s (QSI) first venture into British football. It currently controls France’s Paris Saint-Germain.

“Qatar Sports Investments will be entering English Football, and Leeds is the club of their choice,” a person familiar with the talks told FT. “Qatar has been looking into the prospects of entering English Football for the past two years.”

QSI’s chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi was charged with corruption in connection with the bidding process for this year’s world athletics championships in Doha, judicial sources said.

Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, has been under investigation since March in a probe of the bidding process for the 2017 and the 2019 world championships.

French prosecutors are looking specifically at two payments of $3.5 million in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment, a company jointly owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid, to a sports marketing firm run by Papa Massata Diack.

Diack’s father Lamine Diack was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from 1999 to 2015 and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

As well as probing the world athletics championships the French investigation is also examining circumstances in which the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and Tokyo for 2020.

Prior to the decision to charge him, Al-Khelaifi had been questioned in March as “person of interest” in the case revolving around the 2011 payments by Oryx which were made at a time when Doha was seeking to host the 2017 world athletics championship and the 2020 Olympics.

Investigators were seeking to determine whether, in return for the payments, Lamine Diack used his influence to gain votes for Doha among IAAF members and also to obtain a date change for the competitions to avoid the heat of the Qatar summer.

(With AFP)

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Raptors beat Bucks to reach first NBA final

DUBAI: Qatar is in talks to buy a stake in UK football club Leeds United, the Financial Times reported. Leeds United plays in the second tier of English professional football, the Championship, and will be Qatar Sports Investment’s (QSI) first venture into British football. It currently controls France’s Paris Saint-Germain. “Qatar Sports Investments will be…

Raptors beat Bucks to reach first NBA final

DUBAI: Qatar is in talks to buy a stake in UK football club Leeds United, the Financial Times reported.

Leeds United plays in the second tier of English professional football, the Championship, and will be Qatar Sports Investment’s (QSI) first venture into British football. It currently controls France’s Paris Saint-Germain.

“Qatar Sports Investments will be entering English Football, and Leeds is the club of their choice,” a person familiar with the talks told FT. “Qatar has been looking into the prospects of entering English Football for the past two years.”

QSI’s chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi was charged with corruption in connection with the bidding process for this year’s world athletics championships in Doha, judicial sources said.

Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, has been under investigation since March in a probe of the bidding process for the 2017 and the 2019 world championships.

French prosecutors are looking specifically at two payments of $3.5 million in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment, a company jointly owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid, to a sports marketing firm run by Papa Massata Diack.

Diack’s father Lamine Diack was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from 1999 to 2015 and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

As well as probing the world athletics championships the French investigation is also examining circumstances in which the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and Tokyo for 2020.

Prior to the decision to charge him, Al-Khelaifi had been questioned in March as “person of interest” in the case revolving around the 2011 payments by Oryx which were made at a time when Doha was seeking to host the 2017 world athletics championship and the 2020 Olympics.

Investigators were seeking to determine whether, in return for the payments, Lamine Diack used his influence to gain votes for Doha among IAAF members and also to obtain a date change for the competitions to avoid the heat of the Qatar summer.

(With AFP)

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Lewis Hamilton snatches dramatic Monaco Grand Prix pole position with record lap

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday. The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason. Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper…

Lewis Hamilton snatches dramatic Monaco Grand Prix pole position with record lap

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.

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