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Real Madrid Wins 2-1 at Struggling Rivals Barcelona in First Post-Messi ‘Classico’

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Real Madrid piled renewed pressure on Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman as David Alaba scored a scintillating goal to help them seal a 2-1 victory in the Clasico at Camp Nou on Sunday.

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Alaba’s bending shot had Madrid in front for the majority of an end-to-end contest, with Lucas Vazquez making it two in injury-time before Sergio Aguero tapped in his first goal for Barcelona with seconds left.

Barca have now lost a fourth consecutive Clasico for the first time since 1965 and stay a lowly eighth in La Liga, five points behind Madrid, who surge back to the top of the table.

After beating Valencia and winning a crucial Champions League game against Dynamo Kiev this week, it represents a fresh set-back for Barca and Koeman, whose future will again come under scrutiny.

Madrid, meanwhile, see their own recovery bolstered, after backing up a thumping win over Shakhtar Donetsk to leave a rocky run in the rear-view mirror.

This was the first league meeting between these clubs without either Lionel Messi or Sergio Ramos since 2005 and while there were still veterans on show – Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets all starting – it was a Clasico more about the future.

For the first time in 65 years, six players younger than 22 began the game while Gavi, Barcelona’s 17-year-old midfielder, was the youngest Barca starter in a Clasico in almost a century.

The promotion of a duel between Ansu Fati and Vinicius Junior perhaps felt a little forced, but both players have become symbols of hope.

Fati endured one of those games to be expected sometimes of an 18-year-old, with the occasional threat dotted across a quieter display than he would have liked.

Vinicius, though, was electric from the start, a constant thorn in Barcelona’s side, especially in the first half, and instrumental in Alaba’s superb, counter-attacking opener.

Barcelona were the more purposeful early on, setting their stall out by dominating the ball but Madrid were happy to sit deep and posed the greater problems on the break.

Vincius beat Oscar Mingueza with a superb turn through his opponent’s legs and as Mingueza scuttled back to recover, Vinicius cut across him and fell to the floor. The contact was there but minimal and the referee was unconvinced.

Not long after, Vinicius was in again and while replays showed he was just offside, Marc-Andre ter Stegen did brilliantly to slow the striker, take him wide and force a finish with defenders back to block.

In between, Barca were controlling the ball, their more patient approach yielding a golden opportunity for Sergino Dest, the American more accustomed to right back than right wing, who blazed over from six yards after Memphis Depay slid across.

Madrid made Barcelona pay in the 32nd minute with a wonderful goal. Alaba tackled Depay on the edge of his own box and kept going, at first wanting it down the line from Vinicius, who instead switched forward to Rodrygo.

This time Alaba would get it back, his space opened up by the curving run of Benzema, and from the edge of the area he swerved the ball inside the far post.

Benzema and Fati both went close before half-time, when Koeman introduced Philippe Coutinho for Mingueza and switched from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1.

Barcelona grew in confidence before the hour. Fati’s finish found Thibaut Courtois. Jordi Alba swept free after a skirmish with Rodrygo. Coutinho glided a switch right to Dest.

Yet Madrid survived and threatened a second as Luka Modric’s bending effort was blocked and then he teed up Benzema, who volleyed at Ter Stegen.

The game had become stretched and there was a dramatic finish.

Pique wanted a penalty when he was prevented from finishing in the box and on the counter-attack, Madrid made it two, Marco Asensio’s shot swept in by the sliding Vazquez in the 93rd minute.

There was still time for an Aguero goal in the 97th, a sharp finish from Dest’s cross, but not for a comeback.

(AFP)

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Original Article: france24.com

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World at ‘inflection Point’ Warns Biden, Raising Alarm at Democracy Summit

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Democracy faces “sustained and alarming challenges” worldwide, US President Joe Biden said Thursday at the opening of a virtual summit on democracy with representatives from some 100 countries.

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Biden said trends were “largely pointing in the wrong direction” and that democracy needed “champions.”

“We stand at an inflection point,” he said. “Will we allow the backward slide of rights and democracy to continue unchecked?”

The two-day event, held by video link due to the coronavirus pandemic, was billed by the White House as US leadership in an existential struggle between democracies and powerful autocracies or dictatorships.

“Make no mistake, we’re at a moment of democratic reckoning,” said Uzra Zeya, the US under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. “Countries in virtually every region of the world have experienced degrees of democratic backsliding.”

The summit featured opening remarks from Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with representatives from some 100 governments, as well as NGOs, private businesses, philanthropical organisations and legislatures attending.

China, Russia not invited

The conference is a test of Biden’s assertion, made in his first foreign policy address in February, that he would return the US to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.

Both countries were not invited to this week’s event, which coincides with questions about the strength of America’s democracy. Biden is struggling to pass his agenda through a polarised Congress following the turbulent and disruptive Trump presidency.

Amid rising US-China tensions, the Biden administration’s decision to invite Taiwan has irked Beijing.

China considers Taiwan, a democratically ruled island, part of its territory.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said the invitation of Taiwan showed the US was only using democracy as “cover and a tool for it to advance its geopolitical objectives, oppress other countries, divide the world and serve its own interests.”

‘Lip service’

Washington used the run-up to the summit to announce sanctions against officials in Iran, Syria and Uganda it accuses of oppressing their populations, and against people it accuses of being tied to corruption and criminal gangs in Kosovo and Central America.

US officials hope to win support during the meetings for global initiatives, such as use of technology to enhance privacy or circumvent censorship, and for countries to make specific public commitments to improve their democracies before an in-person summit planned for late 2022.

Annie Boyajian, director of advocacy at non-profit Freedom House, said the event had the potential to push struggling democracies to do better and to spur coordination between democratic governments.

“But, a full assessment won’t be possible until we know what commitments there are and how they are implemented in the year ahead,” Boyajian said.

Zeya at the State Department said civil society would help hold the countries, including the United States, accountable. Zeya declined to say whether Washington would disinvite leaders who did not fulfill their pledges.

Human Rights Watch’s Washington director Sarah Holewinski said making the invitation to the 2022 summit dependent on delivering on commitments was the only way to get nations to step up.

Otherwise, Holewinski said, some “will only pay lip service to human rights and make commitments they never intend to keep.”

“They shouldn’t get invited back,” she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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Original Source: france24.com

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Top US Scientist Fauci: Omicron ‘almost Certainly Not More Severe’ Than Delta Variant

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Top US scientist Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that while it would take weeks to judge the severity of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, early indications suggested it was not worse than prior strains, and possibly milder.Read More

Source: france24.com

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Suspected Member of Khashoggi Hit Squad Arrested at Paris Airport

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French police Tuesday arrested at Paris’s main airport a suspected member of the team that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, sources said.Read More

Source Here: france24.com

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