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Leverkusen Set New 33-Match Unbeaten Record, Go 11 Points Clear

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A long-range shot from Robert Andrich took Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen to a 2-1 home win against Mainz on Friday, setting a new German record of 33 games unbeaten.

Andrich’s goal was helped by a goalkeeping mistake from Mainz’s Robin Zentner, who allowed the ball to slip through his hands and into the net.

Leverkusen were nervy and made a number of uncharacteristic errors, but the victory takes them 11 points clear of Bayern Munich in their bid for a first-ever Bundesliga title.

“We have to be honest and say we didn’t play a great game and were a bit lucky to win, but we won’t complain about the three points,” Andrich told DAZN.

Bayern, who announced their plan to part ways with coach Thomas Tuchel in the summer on Wednesday, host RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen, who have won 29 and drawn four of their 33 games this season, broke the record set by Hansi Flick’s Bayern between 2019 and 2020 — a run which included a Champions League victory.

The week had been dominated by talk of Alonso’s future, amid links to Liverpool to replace Jurgen Klopp, along with the upcoming vacancy in Munich.

Alonso had shut down the rumours, saying any discussion of a return to the clubs he represented during his playing career was “only hypothetical”.

After the match, Andrich told DAZN “we don’t know anything about it, but we take it in our stride.”

“It’s like rumours about a player. As long as everything works well in the dressing room, they can talk about what they like outside of it.”

Granit Xhaka got the hosts off to the best possible start, thumping in a dipping rocket from the edge of the box after just three minutes, his first goal in Leverkusen colours.

“I was under a lot of pressure from my teammates, who reminded me I hadn’t scored a goal yet,” Xhaka told DAZN.

“I’m more than happy and I hope there’s more to come.”

Leverkusen’s elation was short-lived however, with second-bottom Mainz striking back just four minutes later.

Nadiem Amiri, who started the season at Leverkusen before moving to Mainz in search of game time, was the architect of the equaliser, floating in a free kick which rebounded for Dominik Kohr to head in.

Nerveless during their stunning run this season, the goal sucked the momentum out of Leverkusen’s game, with the side’s normally crisp passes missing the target.

The pressure showed as Jeremie Frimpong and Alonso both saw yellow late in the first half having objected to a decision not to call a foul against the Dutch winger.

Mainz had a golden chance to take the lead early in the second half when the normally reliable Edmond Tapsoba passing directly to Lee Jae-sung, but the midfielder blasted over with the goal beckoning.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, midfielder Andrich took a speculative long shot from outside the box.

Zentner, who had impressively kept Leverkusen at bay throughout the match, made a meal of a routine save, allowing the hosts to reclaim the lead.

Late in the match, Mainz were reduced to 10 men, Jessic Ngankam shown a straight red for sinking his studs into Xhaka’s calf, just 15 minutes after coming on.

The decision snuffed out Mainz’s hopes of a comeback and ensured Leverkusen took another major step to a first-ever league crown.

AFP

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Inter Milan Win Serie A Title In Derby Thriller With AC Milan

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Inter Milan won Serie A on Monday after beating AC Milan 2-1 and creating an unassailable lead at the top of the league with their sixth straight derby victory.

Goals from Francesco Acerbi and Marcus Thuram gave Inter a 17-point advantage over closest challengers Milan and secured their 20th league crown with five matches of the season remaining.

Simone Inzaghi won the first league title of his managerial career on a cold, soaking wet evening at the San Siro where a clutch of Inter’s “away” fans in the 75,000 crowd roared in delight at the final whistle.

Milan made a fight of it in the final moments after Fikayo Tomori pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining but Inter held out to kick off a title party.

Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns.

Inzaghi’s team did it style, laying waste to the rest of the division and becoming the first team to claim the title by winning the Milan derby.

With outgoing champions Napoli crashing and burning early in the campaign and Milan falling away in the autumn Inter raced off into the distance at the turn of the year.

Juventus looked like putting up a fight but they collapsed in February just as Inter strung together a run of 13 wins which also gave them hope of repeating a deep run in the Champions League.

Inter failed in that mission as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in mid-March, but by that time the domestic damage had already been done.

The future looks bright too as Inzaghi, captain Lautaro Martinez and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella are all set to renew their contracts while smart work in the transfer market and increased revenue has helped mitigate significant financial harm wrought by the Covid-29 pandemic.

Piotr Zielinski and Medhi Taremi will arrive from Napoli and Porto as free agents in the close season while big stars like Marcus Thuram should stay.

Off the pitch Inter’s president Steven Zhang is trying to make sure that investment fund Oaktree don’t take control of the club with non-repayment of an emergency loan — granted in 2021 — next month.

Zhang is looking at taking out another loan with fellow US fund Pimco so that Inter can pay Oaktree loan and ensure that the club don’t wind up owned by Oaktree as Milan did with Elliott in 2018.

AFP

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EPL: Arsenal go top with 2-0 win at Wolves

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Arsenal have returned to the top of the Premier League with a battling 2-0 win at Wolves.

The Gunners missed the chance last Sunday, following a 2-0 shock defeat at home to Aston Villa.

However, Mikel Arteta’s men were in control of the match at the Molineux and took the lead in the first half, thanks to Leandro Trossard’s smart finish.

Martin Odegaard then sealed the win in the dying minutes of the game.

Arsenal now have 74 points after 33 matches.

Manchester City are second with 73 points from 32 matches, while Liverpool who face Fulham on Sunday are on 71 points.

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FA Cup: Why Thiago Silva cried after Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat to Man City

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Chelsea veteran defender, Thiago Silva was seen crying profusely after the Blues went down 1-0 to Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday.

According to a football expert, Fabrizio Romano, the reason for the player’s display of emotion could be tied to the fact that he has missed out on playing his last final in Europe.

Manchester City defeated Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday to earn their place in the FA Cup final.

They now await the winner of the second semifinal to be played between Manchester United and Coventry.

“Thiago Silva crying after the game at Wembley…as it could have been his last final in Europe,” Romano wrote, sharing the Brazilian’s pictures.

“Thiago and Chelsea will discuss his future soon, he could leave the club at the end of the season — as current deal expires in June.”

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