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Arsenal Beat Luton To Top Premier League Table

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Arsenal coasted to a 2-0 win over struggling Luton on Wednesday to dislodge Liverpool from the top of the Premier League table, once again edging ahead in a thrilling three-way title tussle.

Gunners captain Martin Odegaard opened the scoring midway through the first half and an own goal just before the break gave the home side a cushion.

The result lifts Arsenal to 68 points – one ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who host Sheffield United on Thursday.

Defending champions Manchester City, playing fourth-placed Aston Villa on Wednesday, started the evening in third place, a point behind Arsenal.

Mikel Arteta’s men dominated possession in the opening stages at the Emirates but created few clear-cut openings in front of an expectant crowd.

But they broke the deadlock in the 24th minute, courtesy of a sweet left-footed strike by Odegaard.

Emile Smith-Rowe, a peripheral figure this season, stole possession and fed Odegaard, who played a one-two with Kai Havertz before stroking the ball home.

Arsenal doubled their lead in the 44th minute thanks to an own goal from Luton defender Daiki Hashioka, who turned into his own net following more good work down the left by Smith-Rowe.

The home side, playing in second gear, had just three shots on target in the first half but were well worth their lead.

The bulk of the second half was largely flat, although Luton came into the game more, probing for an opening to haul themselves back into the contest.

Arteta brought on midfielder Declan Rice and forward Eddie Nketiah, adding Gabriel Martinelli with 15 minutes to play.

Arsenal substitute Takehiro Tomiyasu went close, bending one just wide, and Nketiah forced a save from the scrambling Thomas Kaminski in the closing minutes.

They were unable to score a third but saw the game out with few alarms.

The Gunners, who have not been crowned English champions since 2004, set the pace for the bulk of last season before flagging as the finishing line approached.

But, adding steel to their style, they have now won nine of their past 10 league games, with the only blip in that sequence a goalless draw against City on Sunday.

Arsenal, who have conceded just four goals in the league in 2024, travel to Brighton on Saturday before hosting Villa on April 14.

Defeat for depleted Luton leaves Rob Edwards’ side third from bottom of the English top flight, three points from safety, and facing an immediate return to the Championship.

In the other 1830 GMT kick-off on Wednesday, Brentford drew 0-0 with Brighton.

On Sunday, Manchester City failed to break down Arsenal as a highly-anticipated clash at the top of the Premier League failed to live up to the hype in a 0-0 draw at the Etihad.

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Champions League semi-final fixtures confirmed

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The two semi-final fixtures in this year’s Champions League have been confirmed.

This follows the completion of all quarter-final ties on Wednesday night.

Bayern Munich will play Real Madrid after they beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Allianz Arena to qualify with a 3-2 aggregate.

Madrid drew 1-1 on the night at the Etihad, before winning the penalty shoot-out 4-3.

In the other semi-final clash, Paris Saint-Germain will take on Borussia Dortmund.

PSG sent Barcelona packing with a 6-4 aggregate win on Tuesday, while Dortmund eliminated Atletico Madrid with a 5-4 aggregate victory.

The last-four fixtures have been scheduled for April 30 and May 7, 2024.

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Mbappe’s PSG Punish 10-man Barca To Reach Champions League Semis

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Kylian Mbappe struck twice as Paris Saint-Germain battled back to beat 10-man Barcelona 4-1 and book a place in the Champions League semi-finals with a 6-4 aggregate triumph on Tuesday.

Raphinha fired Barcelona ahead early on but Ronald Araujo’s 29th-minute red card turned the tide in PSG’s favour, despite the Spanish champions leading by two goals following a 3-2 quarter-final first-leg win.

Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha levelled the tie for PSG and the deadly Mbappe hit a brace to put them into the final four for the first time since 2021.

The French champions have never won the trophy despite huge investment but demonstrated they have the attacking weapons in their squad to do so.

Five-time winners Barcelona were dreaming of a first semi-final return since 2019 but Araujo’s red card for pulling down the relentless Bradley Barcola undermined their grip on the tie.

PSG coach Luis Enrique, who led Barca to the 2015 Champions League, said he believed his team would turn things around despite never having managed to after a first-leg defeat, and so it proved.

The visitors started with determination and penned Barcelona back in their territory, but it was the hosts who took the lead.

Explosive 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal ripped past Nuno Mendes and crossed to the near post where Raphinha turned home despite pressure from Achraf Hakimi.

It was the Brazilian winger’s third goal of the tie after his brace in Paris.

Robert Lewandowski fired another chance over the top for Barcelona before Barcola tilted the tie in PSG’s favour. The winger was a nightmare for his French compatriot Jules Kounde to handle.

Barcola teed up Mbappe but Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen denied him well before Araujo was sent off for bringing him down.

The Uruguayan centre-back pulled Barcola back as he burst into the area, leaving Barca with 10 men.

Dembele whizzed the resulting free-kick narrowly over, but soon found the net, as he did in the first leg.

The former Barcelona winger struck after 40 minutes from another Barcola cross, which raked across the area to the back post where Dembele was arriving to fire into the roof of the net.

Barcelona sacrificed Yamal for defender Inigo Martinez after Araujo’s red card and it left them with few outlets in attack.

With PSG controlling the game Barcelona soon paid the price for their inability to keep possession.

Vitinha was given far too much space on the edge of the box and he drilled into the bottom corner to put PSG ahead on the night.

Ilkay Gundogan hit the post at the other end for Barcelona before their coach Xavi was sent off for a show of dissent on the touchline.

The Catalans were losing their heads and Joao Cancelo clumsily fouled Dembele to hand PSG a penalty.

Mbappe, who had been kept quiet in the first leg, hammered it into the top corner for his 40th goal across all competitions.

The striker’s future may lie in Spain, with Real Madrid aiming to sign him in the summer at the end of his contract, and he made no friends in Barcelona by hopping the advertising hoardings and running towards fans to celebrate.

Another member of Barcelona’s backroom staff was dismissed after Gundogan had a penalty appeal waved away and it became clear the hosts had no response.

Mbappe wrapped up the win in the 89th minute after a fine Ter Stegen double save, leaving Barcelona the victims of another bitterly disappointing night in Europe.

AFP

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CAF Set To Scrap Confederation Cup, Elevate African Football League

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The Confederation of African Football, CAF, is set to scrap its second-tier club competition, the Confederation Cup, according to reports.

The Confederation Cup was established in 2004 from a merger of the CAF Cup and the African Cup Winners’ Cup.

CAF introduced a new competition, the African Football League last year.

The African Football League, which started with eight teams will now be expanded to include more teams.

It will now be the major club competition on the continent.

The CAF Champions League will take the place of the CAF Confederation Cup as Africa’s second-tier club competition.

The winner of the African Football League will now be representing the continent in the FIFA Club World Cup.

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