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Liverpool Win League Cup As Van Dijk Strikes Late To Sink Chelsea

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Liverpool players pose with the trophy after the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley stadium, in London, on February 25, 2024. Virgil van Dijk scored the only goal deep into extra-time as Liverpool won the League Cup for a record tenth time. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

Liverpool won the League Cup in dramatic fashion as Virgil van Dijk’s header late in extra-time sealed a 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s injury-hit side finished a gruelling clash with a host of raw youngsters on the pitch, but it was their experienced captain who clinched the club’s 10th League Cup triumph.

Van Dijk earlier had a goal controversially disallowed by VAR, but the Dutch defender pounced to nod home with just two minutes left.

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It was Liverpool’s first trophy following Klopp’s bombshell announcement that he will step down at the end of this season.

The German will hope Liverpool’s first silverware since the 2022 FA Cup will be the springboard for an incredible farewell tour.

Quadruple-chasing Liverpool sit top of the Premier League, face Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday and take on Sparta Prague in the Europa League last 16.

It was another bitter Wembley experience for Chelsea, who lost the 2022 League Cup and FA Cup finals against Liverpool.

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Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino has asked Chelsea fans not to judge him on “winning titles” in the midst of a troubled first season in charge.

But Chelsea remain without domestic silverware since the 2018 FA Cup and had only themselves to blame after missing a host of chances in normal time.

Ravaged by injuries to 11 players, Liverpool’s list of star absentees included Mohamed Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson Becker, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota and Dominik Szoboszlai.

That meant starts for 20-year-olds Conor Bradley and Harvey Elliott, while six of Klopp’s substitutes were 21 or younger.

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Chelsea’s Serbian goalkeeper #28 Djordje Petrovic dives but is unable to prevent a header from Liverpool’s Dutch defender #04 Virgil van Dijk (not pictured) beating him during the English League Cup final football match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley stadium, in London, on February 25, 2024. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

– Goals Ruled Out –
Despite their youthful line-up, Liverpool settled quickly as Luis Diaz led the charge.

Taking advantage of Chelsea’s hesitant defending, Diaz advanced into the area for a fierce strike that forced a good save from Djordje Petrovic.

Against the run of play, Chelsea should have taken the lead with their first incisive raid.

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Conor Gallagher’s cross deflected to Cole Palmer just six yards out, but his strike produced a superb save from Caoimhin Kelleher.

Ryan Gravenberch joined Liverpool’s ever-growing injury list when he was stretchered off after the midfielder’s leg twisted awkwardly in a challenge with Moises Caicedo.

Raheem Sterling thought he had given Chelsea the lead with a close-range finish from Nicolas Jackson’s cross, but the goal was disallowed for a tight offside against the Senegal striker before his assist.

Responding to Chelsea’s improvement, Liverpool were inches away from taking the lead through Cody Gakpo, whose glancing header from Andrew Robertson’s cross hit the far post.

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Liverpool kept coming and Bradley’s goalbound shot was brilliantly blocked by Levi Colwill, who threw himself into the fray to repel the close-range effort.

Liverpool looked to have broken the deadlock on the hour when Van Dijk climbed above Ben Chilwell to head in Robertson’s free-kick.

But VAR intervened, prompting referee Chris Kavanagh to disallow the goal for offside against Wataru Endo, who blocked Colwill from marking the Dutch defender.

Axel Disasi should have rubbed salt into Liverpool’s wounds but the Chelsea defender made a complete hash of a close-range chance.

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Chelsea went close again as Gallagher met Palmer’s cross with a flick that cannoned off the far post.

Gallagher wasted a golden opportunity to win it in the final minutes, receiving Palmer’s pass in acres of space but taking a heavy touch that allowed Kelleher to save.

In a pulsating finale, Kelleher made two more saves from Palmer and Christopher Nkunku in quick succession to force extra-time.

Bobby Clark, James McConnell, Jarell Quansah and Jayden Danns were all on by now, but if Liverpool’s youngsters lacked Chelsea’s experience, they were never overawed.

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Danns almost guided his header over Petrovic and Elliott was inches away when he volleyed against the post.

Liverpool would not be denied and with penalties just two minutes away, Van Dijk met Kostas Tsimikas’s corner with a header that flashed past Petrovic as Klopp raised his arms with a smile that bordered on disbelief.

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.

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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.

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• 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.

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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.

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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”.

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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).

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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.

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“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.

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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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