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Arsenal kept alive their hopes of reaching the Europa League final as a Nicolas Pepe penalty gave the 10-man visitors an away goal in defeat at Villarreal.

The first leg of this semi-final clash appeared to be getting away from the Gunners as first-half goals from Manuel Trigueros and Raul Albiol preceded a Dani Ceballos red card just before the hour.

But Pepe would convert from the spot to send Arsenal home with a 2-1 deficit, Villarreal having also been reduced to 10 men late on following the dismissal of former Tottenham man Etienne Capoue.

This is Arsenal’s third Europa League semi-final in four years but they have only made the final once in that time – under current Villarreal boss Unai Emery, who looked to be getting one over his former club as the hosts made a flying start.

Trigueros opened the scoring with just five minutes on the clock, driving home a low effort after indecision in the Arsenal box allowed Samuel Chukwueze to play in his team-mate.

Mikel Arteta was left ashen-faced as the lead was doubled before the half-hour, Albiol turning home at the back post as Arsenal failed to get anywhere near to a routine corner.

Pepe thought he had won a penalty after he was tripped inside the box but a VAR review deemed he had handled the ball in the build-up and the award was overturned.

The visitors failed to have a shot on target in the first half and could have been further behind if Bernd Leno had not made a fine stop to deny in-form Gerard Moreno.

But a red card for Ceballos, who was lucky not to pick up a second booking early in the second half, for standing on Dani Parejo looked to have Arteta’s men staring at elimination.

Instead they rallied and gave themselves hope of overturning the aggregate score next week at the Emirates Stadium.

Bukayo Saka broke into the Villarreal box and was caught by Trigueros, allowing Pepe to coolly slot home the resulting penalty.

When Capoue was then shown a second yellow card 10 minutes from time as he was taken off on a stretcher after fouling Saka, Arsenal even harboured hopes of an equaliser.

That was not to be, despite a late chance for returning captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but – given how the evening started – Arteta and his players will be pleased to still have a good chance of advancing to the final in Gdansk.

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Barcelona blew the chance of going top of the Spanish La Liga after they were stunned by Granada in a shock 2-1 defeat at the Camp Nou stadium.

The Catalans were looking to move past Atletico Madrid with a victory at home as Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann started up front in 3-5-2 formation, while the visitors were looking to climb to 8th on the La Liga table.

In the 23rd minute, Messi opened the scoring after linking up with Griezmann. The Frenchman timed his delayed return pass to Messi perfectly and the Argentine fired a low shot past Granada goalkeeper Aaron Escandell and into the far corner of the net.

It was Messi’s 26th goal of the season as he continued to inspire Barcelona. Moments later, Messi found himself one-on-one with Escandell but couldn’t convert his chance as the score remained 1-0 at half-time.

Granada, who had failed to manage even a draw in any of its previous 25 league visits to the Camp Nou, turned the game around in the second half to further change the outlook in the title race.

Darwin Machis equalised for Granada in the 63rd minute when he latched onto a deflected pass and slotted the ball past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman was then shown a red card in the aftermath of Granada’s equaliser as the hosts dropped to second on the table, a point behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona’s night got worse when Granada completed an unexpected comeback 11 minutes from time when substitute Jorge Molina headed the ball into the net from close range.

The visitors scored with both their shots on target at the Nou Camp, and were looking to cause a huge upset.

Barcelona failed to capitalise on its dominance as the match finished 2-1 to Granada, a result that will undoubtedly be celebrated between the capital clubs Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

“We lost our focus in the second half and made errors at the back,” Barcelona coach Koeman said. “We need to accept the fact we’ve lost, that’s the reality of things. We had chances to win the game, but that’s that.”

“We’ve got five more games to go and each of the sides (in the title race) will have difficulties in the schedule. We now need to prepare ourselves for Sunday’s game (away to Valencia). We’re still in the mix and have a chance. We need to accept this, move on and prepare for the next one.”

“We tried but weren’t able to make many chances when they scored their goals. They closed shop well and we couldn’t create,” he added.

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Manchester United ran amok against Roma once again as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comeback kings triumphed 6-2 and took a giant stride towards the Europa League final.

Having fallen short in four semi-finals in the last two seasons, the Red Devils were looking to underline their progress by reaching their first final under the 1999 treble hero.

Solskjaer was part of the side that thrashed Roma 7-1 in 2007 and oversaw another famous victory against the Giallorossi on Thursday as United took charge of this Europa League semi-final.

Bruno Fernandes got the first leg off to a dream start at Old Trafford, only for Lorenzo Pellegrini to swiftly level and ex-Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko to give Paulo Fonseca’s side a shock half-time lead.

But United have dug deep to bounce back time and time again this season, with Cavani inspiring the latest comeback when smashing home a superb leveller just minutes into the second half.

The veteran put Solskjaer’s men ahead after an error by substitute Antonio Mirante, before Fernandes added a penalty and Paul Pogba headed home.

Mason Greenwood came off the bench to add gloss on a night when Roma’s three first-half injuries took their toll in a dramatic first leg.

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Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is open to the possibility of becoming Tottenham Hotspur’s new manager.

Spurs are still searching for a permanent candidate for the role, having dismissed Jose Mourinho last Monday.

It’s now understood that Ten Hag ranks highly on Tottenham’s manager shortlist and the club are keen to strike a deal with the 51-year-old.

According to sports journalist Fabrizio Romano, Spurs have scheduled a ‘direct meeting’ with Erik ten Hag and the Dutchman is open to leaving Ajax in the summer.

Ajax are on the verge of becoming league champions once again and require only a point at home to Emmen on Sunday to secure the Eredivisie title.

Ten Hag took charge of Ajax in December 2017, following previous spells with fellow Dutch sides Go Ahead Eagles and Utrecht.

He previously faced Tottenham in the 2019, suffering a devastating Champions League semi-final defeat courtesy of a Lucas Moura inspired second leg fightback.

Other potential candidates for the role have included Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers, Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo, former RB Leipzig manager Ralf Rangnick and departing RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Spurs had wanted Nagelsmann to replace Mourinho, but Bayern Munich recently agreed terms for the 33-year-old to become their new coach from July

Ryan Mason is currently in caretaker charge of Spurs until the end of the season.

As well as finding Mourinho’s long-term successor, another priority for chairman Daniel Levy is addressing Harry Kane’s future at the club.

The 27-year-old striker is under contract until June 2024 and has again reiterated his desire to win trophies as opposed to individual awards.

“Individual awards are great, they are fantastic achievements,” said Kane.

“When I look back at the end of my career, these are the things I will go over and take in more, but the goal right now as a player is to win team trophies. I want to be winning the biggest prizes there is to offer and we are not quite doing that.”

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Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said he has no interest in leaving the Premier League club for the vacant job at Tottenham.

The former Liverpool and Celtic manager, 48, had been touted as a leading candidate to join Spurs after they sacked Jose Mourinho last week.

Leicester are third in the Premier League — on track to qualify for next season’s Champions League — while Spurs are five points off the top four after a disappointing season.

“Tottenham is a great club, one of the biggest clubs in Britain, but for me I’m just in a really, really happy place in my life,” Rodgers said, according to media reports.

“I have a huge respect here for the players, the board and I really feel that I want to continue my work here.

“I’m very, very happy here and I’m happy because I’ve got a set of players that give me their heart and soul every single day and also I can see a future here in terms of the development of the squad.”

The Northern Irishman, who joined Leicester in 2019, said he had a strong relationship with the board at the King Power Stadium.

“I think over the last couple of years what we’ve been able to do is build an infrastructure around behaviour and creating a mindset in order to win,” he said.

“That’s not easy and it’s taken us a couple of years but you see now the mentality around developing that will and desire to win.

“And now for the next period of years let’s see if we can roll that out now that we’ve created that mentality.”

German champions Bayern Munich announced this week B Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann, who had also been linked with the Tottenham job, would be joining them from next season.

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Tyson Fury boasted he will quit in his corner if Anthony Joshua is able to survive three rounds of their proposed showdown that would determine the undisputed heavyweight champion.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said last week an eagerly-anticipated bout between the pair who hold all four major world titles – Fury is the WBC champion while Joshua has the WBA, IBF and WBO crowns – is “as done as it can be”.

Fury is confident he can finish the contest – which is likely to occur in late July or early August – within the first nine minutes and has volunteered to retire on his stool if Joshua hears the bell for the fourth round.

“While I’m on a rant I may as well call out one more person: a big, useless dosser, not a real fighting man, a hype job, bodybuild, cross-fit, big, ugly s***house, that’s Anthony Joshua,” Fury said in a video message on Twitter.

“AJ, if you’re out there, let’s make this fight happen you big dosser. You big s***house bum dosser, I’ll smash your face in and there’s not one thing you can do about it. Prove me wrong, sucker, prove me wrong, I’m number one.

“If you go past three rounds with me, I’ll quit in the corner because that’s how confident I’m taking you cold out within the first two or three rounds. Out like a light switch.”

Fury also took aim at mixed martial arts star Francis Ngannou, telling the UFC heavyweight champion: “Look, you want some of this Gypsy King money? You know where to come and find it.

“You want some of this Gypsy King power? I’ll give it to you. Any time, any place, anywhere, seven days a week and twice on a Sunday.”

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Celtic have highlighted “racial and sectarian attacks and horrendous personal abuse” against their players, staff and fans as they backed a social media boycott.

Scottish football has made a collective decision to switch off all social media use from 3pm on Friday until midnight on Monday.

The move mirrors English football’s planned action in protest at abuse towards players with a number of other sports following suit.

A Celtic statement read: “As a club who has welcomed all since 1888, we are pleased to support this collective campaign.

“Sadly, through various social media platforms Celtic players, staff and supporters for some time have been subjected to racial and sectarian attacks and horrendous personal abuse – this is something which simply has to stop.

“Abusing someone because of the colour of their skin, abusing an individual due to their religion, unacceptable personal attacks or pathetically mocking the death of a loved one – our players, staff and supporters have, tragically, experienced it all through social media.

“We must all make a stand and together defeat this negative, damaging behaviour which inflicts so much harm.

“Social media can be an important, powerful tool. Let’s use it properly.”

Scottish football authorities announced their collective action on Wednesday evening.

A joint statement announced that the game had united to support a boycott of social media in response to “continuing racist and discriminatory abuse online aimed at players, staff, supporters and others associated with the game”.

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “Discrimination of any kind has absolutely no place in Scottish football and the online abuse received by some of those involved in our national game is absolutely abhorrent.

“Social media provides a wonderful platform for clubs of all sizes to communicate with their fans. It’s a platform that our clubs have used to great effect in recent years but it is also a medium that is being abused by a vile and mindless minority.

“These cowards often hide behind anonymous accounts and it is incumbent upon social media companies to actively and aggressively combat this problem.

Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell added: “At our recent summit meeting involving clubs and representatives of the game we witnessed a groundswell of people motivated to tackle inequality in all its forms.

“We are also in dialogue with social media companies to ensure adequate preventative measures are put in place to tackle the specific issue of online abuse via those channels.”

Vivienne MacLaren, Scottish Women’s Football chair, noted an increase in “abusive and discriminatory language targeted at those involved in our game”.

“This has been particularly prevalent on social media and we have made it very clear we will not tolerate this,” she added.

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“We Lost The Battle But The War Continues” – Neymar

Brazilian star Neymar has expressed confidence that PSG are still very much in the semi-final tie against Manchester City despite suffering a home defeat in the first-leg at home.

City seized control of the last four clash thanks to Wednesday’s 2-1 victory in Paris.

PSG captain Marquinhos opened the scoring in the 15th minute as last season’s runners-up outplayed City in the opening half in the French capital.

But Kevin De Bruyne’s awkward cross-cum-shot found the back of the net just past the hour-mark and Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick put City ahead seven minutes later.

Things went from bad to worse for PSG in the 77th minute after Idrissa Gueye was sent off.

As PSG face an uphill task ahead of their return leg in Manchester, Neymar reacted to the result via social media.

“We lost the battle but the war continues,” Neymar wrote on his verified Twitter handle. “I believe in my team.

“I believe that we can be better than we were. ALLEZ PARIS. One per cent chance 99 per cent faith.”

Neymar has not scored in his last six games in the knockout stages of the Champions League, with his last goal outside the group stage coming against Borussia Dortmund in 2019-20.

The midweek collapse was the first time PSG suffered Champions League defeat when leading at half-time since 2001 – against Deportivo La Coruna.

PSG are winless in their four European games against City (D2 L2), only facing Juventus (eight) on more occasions without ever winning in their history.

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Manchester City secure win at PSG in first leg of CL semifinal

PSG led 1-0 through captain Marquinhos’ early header from a corner, but City skipper Kevin De Bruyne equalized in the 64th minute when goalkeeper Keylor Navas misread his dipping cross and it bounced inside his post.

Paris Saint-Germain lost its composure and the match as Manchester City rallied to win 2-1 away from home in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal on Wednesday.

PSG led 1-0 through captain Marquinhos’ early header from a corner, but City skipper Kevin De Bruyne equalized in the 64th minute when goalkeeper Keylor Navas misread his dipping cross and it bounced inside his post.

Riyad Mahrez’s free kick — through a wall that jumped early and left an inviting gap for the Algeria winger — put the visitors ahead in the 71st.

“We deserved the lead, but in the second half they were better than us. Physically they were a little bit more aggressive, it was difficult for us to recover the ball,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said. “We’re very disappointed with the two goals. It’s difficult to accept that this happened in the semifinal, it’s really painful.”

After City’s quick 1-2 punch, PSG’s composure soon crumbled, as has often been the case in recent seasons when under pressure. Pochettino’s side finished the game with 10 players as midfielder Idrissa Gueye was shown a red card in the 77th minute for a dangerous tackle on midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

City could have taken a bigger lead into the return leg next Tuesday, but winger Phil Foden shot straight at Navas after a brilliant jinking run through PSG’s flagging defense.

“In football you need to believe,” Pochettino said. “Of course we are under a little bit of pressure, but in football you need to try.”

City coach Pep Guardiola wants his players to stay relaxed for the return leg, rather than thinking about reaching the final for the first time in the club’s history.

“All I want is for us to be ourselves in the second leg,” he said. “We are good playing a certain way, we cannot do it differently.”

Chelsea drew 1-1 at Real Madrid in the other semifinal on Tuesday.

City made a bright start, stretching PSG with its quick passing and imposing itself in midfield with some hefty challenges.

But PSG had the first sights on goal and, after Neymar went close, Marquinhos timed his run well to meet Angel Di Maria’s corner near the front post and head in the 15th-minute opener.

It was another important goal from the Brazilian, after netting a last-gasp equalizer in the quarterfinals and then scoring in the semis last season.

Di Maria was causing problems for City’s defense with his runs from the right flank, while both Neymar and Marco Verratti were opening City up with their passing.

With City now playing on the break, Foden wasted a good chance near the break when he shot straight at Navas from just inside the penalty area, after being set up by Bernardo Silva’s pass from the right.

“In the first half we were too rushed,” De Bruyne said. “That’s not the way we’re set up as a team.”

PSG threatened early in the second half, when Di Maria’s superb pass over the midfield put Kylian Mbappe into space down the right. He twisted inside and out, putting two City defenders on the floor, but his fizzing cross was too strong and eluded his teammates.

De Bruyne set up City’s late winner in the League Cup final last Sunday and again took time to exert his influence after a brief spell out injured. The Belgium star went close with a shot on the turn that went just over on the hour mark.

Four minutes later, he was mobbed by his relieved teammates when his cross was intended for a teammate’s head but stunned Navas as it bounced past him.

“It is so hard for the keeper because he always expects someone to touch it,” De Bruyne said.

Then he gave the free kick to Mahrez, who grew up in Sarcelles but is another on a long list of talented local players overlooked by PSG over the years.

“He asked me if he could take it and I said ‘If you believe in yourself take it,’” De Bruyne said. “I have full confidence in all my team.”

He spotted a gap as PSG’s wall jumped too early, and inched City closer to its first Champions League final.

Both sides took a knee against racism just before the game.

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Arsenal’s owners remain “100 per cent committed” to the club and will not entertain any offers to sell, with Spotify founder Daniel Ek considering a takeover bid.

Swedish billionaire Ek last week sent a tweet saying he would be interested in purchasing the Premier League club, which is owned by Stan Kroenke through his Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) business.

It was reported on Monday that Ek, 38, had begun to make inquiries over the weekend into the viability of a takeover bid and that former Gunners players Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira were all on board as part of his plan.

But any potential deal looks to have been scuppered following a staunch response from the Gunners’ American ownership, who say they have not received any bids.

“In recent days we have noted media speculation regarding a potential takeover bid for Arsenal Football Club,” read a KSE statement.

“We remain 100 per cent committed to Arsenal and are not selling any stake in the club.

“We have not received any offer and we will not entertain any offer.”

Arsenal were one of six Premier League clubs to sign up for a breakaway European Super League before quickly withdrawing as the project collapsed.

That sparked fresh protests against Kroenke’s ownership, with thousands of disgruntled supporters marching on the Emirates Stadium ahead of Friday’s top-flight defeat to Everton.

“Our ambition for Arsenal remains to compete to win the biggest trophies in the game and our focus remains on improving our competitiveness on the pitch to achieve this,” concluded the statement.

The Gunners are 10th in the Premier League with five games remaining, 12 points outside the top four.

The defeat to Everton was their seventh in 17 top-flight games at the Emirates this season.

Mikel Arteta’s team are in the semi-finals of the Europa League and play the first leg of their tie against Villarreal in Spain on Thursday.