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Bellingham brace helps leaders Madrid crush title rivals Girona

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Jude Bellingham struck twice as leaders Real Madrid took control of La Liga with a punishing 4-0 win over second-placed Girona on Saturday, opening up a five-point cushion.

Vinicius Junior drove home the opener and then set up Bellingham for the second as Carlo Ancelotti’s side dominated the Catalan minnows, leaving the surprise title contenders reeling.

Bellingham tapped in the third after the break from close range but limped off with an ankle problem early in the second half.

Rodrygo kept the goals flowing with a fine individual effort as the record 35-time Spanish champions taught Girona, in the top flight for only the fourth year in their history, a compelling lesson.

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Victory leaves Madrid 11 points clear of champions Barcelona, third, who host Granada on Sunday.

Madrid’s victory was convincing, with swagger at times but also sweat to keep the league’s top goalscoring side quiet, despite significant injury absences.

Carlo Ancelotti started with a makeshift central defensive pairing of Dani Carvajal and Aurelien Tchouameni, with all four of the club’s specialists in the position out.

Girona were without the suspended Daley Blind and Yangel Herrera, as well as coach Michel Sanchez, watching on helplessly from a high vantage point as his team were dismantled.

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They started well against Madrid but conceded early in a thorough 3-0 home defeat earlier in the season and committed the same mistake again at the Santiago Bernabeu.

This time Vinicius broke the deadlock in only the sixth minute, cutting in from the left and bending a vicious strike beyond Paulo Gazzaniga and in at the far post.

Back in the team after missing the Madrid derby with a neck problem, Vinicius’ drive was his seventh league goal of a season disrupted by injury.

Eduardo Camavinga, skipping forward from midfield, was shoved over by Juanpe on the edge of the box as Madrid pushed for a second, with Gazzaniga saving Fede Valverde’s low free-kick.

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Bellingham, who started the match level with Girona’s Artem Dovbyk on 14 goals as the league’s joint top scorer, doubled Madrid’s lead.

The England international rounded Gazzaniga and then stroked home from a tight angle after a superb Vinicius pass sent him hurtling in on goal.

It ended a run of just one goal in eight games for Bellingham, who had scored freely at the start of the season as he hit the ground running following his move from Borussia Dortmund.

– Bellingham brace –

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Bellingham tapped in his 16th of the season in La Liga early in the second half after Gazzaniga could only tip Vinicius’ shot into his path.

It was his last contribution, Ancelotti quickly withdrawing him afterwards for an ankle injury which he iced.

Bellingham might have sustained it when challenged by Pablo Torre, or slipping on it and colliding with Eric Garcia, both in the first half.

Madrid face RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday and will hope he is fit, after Bellingham reached 20 goals in 29 games across all competitions.

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However Los Blancos have plenty of other firepower if he needs to rest.

Rodrygo rattled in the fourth after darting into the area as Girona collapsed — and perhaps their unlikely title bid has too.

Brahim Diaz curled inches wide and Joselu hit the post with a penalty after Yan Couto fouled Arda Guler as Madrid dominated from start to finish.

AFP

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Outrage after French MP says Israelis not welcome at Olympics

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A French hard-left MP sparked a political row Sunday by saying Israeli athletes were not welcome at the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which one senior minister said had “hints of anti-Semitism”.

France Unbowed (LFI) lawmaker Thomas Portes was “putting a target on the backs of Israeli athletes”, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told broadcaster France 2, echoing criticisms made by a major Jewish group earlier Sunday.

Yonathan Arfi, head of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, said Israeli athletes were “already the most in danger at the Olympic Games”, referencing the 11 “murdered by Palestinian terrorists” in 1972 at the Munich Games.

In a post on X, Arfi branded Portes’s comments “irresponsible” and accused him of “legitimising Hamas”, the Palestinian militant group whose October 7 attacks on Israel sparked the Gaza war.

Portes had said at a rally in support of Palestinians that “the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli sportspeople are not welcome at the Paris Olympic Games” and called for “mobilisation” around the event.

He later told the Parisien newspaper that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia”.

“It’s time to end the double standard,” Portes added.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a limited number of Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in Paris as individuals and not under their country’s colours, and only after being vetted to ensure they have not expressed support for the war.

• Gaza war divides left –

Opposition to Israel’s campaign in Gaza was a centrepiece of LFI’s campaign ahead of European elections last month.

The territory’s Hamas-run health ministry said Sunday that almost 39,000 people had been killed in the fighting, most of them women and children.

Perceived ambiguity in LFI’s response to the October massacre broke apart an alliance of left-wing parties, which grudgingly reformed for this month’s parliamentary polls but has since struggled to find common ground despite coming first.

Beyond Darmanin and the Jewish group, Portes also came under attack from nominal parliamentary allies in the Socialist party and conservatives.

“Of course Israeli athletes are welcome, like all sportspeople from all over the world. Not for who they are but for what they do,” Socialist MP Jerome Guedj posted.

Some LFI lawmakers came out in support of Portes.

“The Israeli flag, stained with the blood of Gaza’s innocents, should not fly in Paris this summer,” MP Aymeric Caron wrote.

Israel’s football team is set to play its first Olympic match against Mali in Paris’ Parc des Prince stadium on Wednesday, two days before the opening ceremony.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s office said Sunday that he would attend Friday’s boat parade on the river Seine and a commemoration for the Israelis killed in Munich in 1972.

AFP.

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Popular Heavyweight Star Banned From Boxing For Two Years

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Robert Helenius has been handed a two-year ban for failing a drug test after his fight with Anthony Joshua last year.

Finland’s Helenius according to report tested positive for the female fertility drug clomifene in a sample provided to Ukad the day after his knockout defeat by Joshua.

He has denied intentional doping and blamed Ukad’s findings on the consumption of contaminated eggs and chicken.

But Ukad said Helenius “was unable to provide any evidence that the eggs and chicken meat he had consumed in advance of the bout originated from hens that had been administered clomifene”.

Recall that Helenius was provisionally suspended on 18 September 2023, and with the date of his ban backdated to then, will be eligible to fight again on 18 September 2025.

‘The Nordic Nightmare’, who was knocked out in the seventh round – stepped in to face Joshua after initial opponent Dillian Whyte returned an “adverse analytical finding” in a Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (Vada) test before the fight.

Helenius also returned an adverse finding in a test administered by Vada a day before the Joshua defeat, although the result was not known until two weeks after the fight.

Clomifene can be used to boost testosterone levels in men and is banned inside and outside competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

British welterweight Conor Benn failed two Vada tests for clomifene in the build-up to his fight with Chris Eubank Jr in October 2022.

Benn denies intentionally taking the drug and said it was ingested through contaminated food.

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Ex Barcelona, Spain defender Marc Bartra ends relationship with model girlfriend Jessica Goicoechea

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By Francesca Hangeior

Former Barcelona and Spain defender Marc Bartra and his model girlfriend Jessica Goicoechea have reportedly ended their relationship, according to Spanish journalist Abel Planelles.

According to Mirror UK, the couple, who had been together since 2001, gained attention earlier this year when Goicoechea revealed their unusual “sex deal” on a Spanish talk show.

During an appearance on “La Resistencia” in May, Goicoechea shared details of their intimate arrangement.

“If we don’t do it one day, you have to do it twice the day after,” she explained, with Bartra present in the audience. The pact was reportedly devised to maintain their connection during periods of separation.

Despite their attempts to keep the relationship alive, Planelles reported that the couple’s romance has now “broken”. However, he added that they remain on good terms.

He stated, “From what those around me tell me, there is no bad vibes, there is no bad relationship. In fact, on the contrary, there is a good relationship.”

The couple’s journey has been tumultuous, with previous breakups and reconciliations. They went public with their relationship in November 2022, shortly after Bartra’s divorce from journalist Melissa Jimenez, with whom he has three children.

Goicoechea, a successful model and influencer with 1.8 million followers, began her career at 15 and has since launched her own fashion collection and cosmetics brand.

Bartra, 33, who currently plays for Real Betis, is known for his stints at Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, where he was involved in a traumatic incident when the team bus was hit by a bomb blast.

While their relationship has ended for now, Planelles suggested that reconciliation isn’t impossible.

“They follow each other, they get along well, but it is true that the relationship has ended. You never know if there might be a second chance or a third chance, but right now the relationship between the footballer and the influencer would be broken,” she said.

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