Liverpool closed gap on City to leave Everton in relegation danger

LONDON: Liverpool closed the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester City to one point as the quadruple chasers pushed Everton deeper into relegation trouble with a 2-0 win, while Chelsea beat West Ham 1-0 to ease their top four anxiety on Sunday.

Juergen Klopp’s side had to work hard to break Everton’s stub­born resistance in a fractious Merseyside derby at Anfield.

They couldn’t muster a shot on target until Scotland defe­nder Andrew Robertson scored with a second-half header.

Divock Origi’s late strike ensured Liverpool kept the pressure on champions City, who had crushed Watford 5-1 on Saturday to move four points clear at the top.

With five games left for both Liverpool and City, the title race looks destined to go down to the wire.

Liverpool, trying to become the first English club to win all four major trophies in one season, now turn their attention to Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Villarreal.

Frank Lampard’s men were dumped into the relegation zone by Burnley’s 1-0 win against Wolves earlier in the day.

They sit two points behind Burnley with a game in hand as they try to avoid playing in the second tier for the first time since 1954.

The turning point came when Klopp sent on Belgian striker Origi in the second half.

In the 62nd minute, Origi combined with Mohamed Salah, who crossed to the far post for Robertson to head his second goal this season.

Origi grabbed the second goal with a close-range header in the 85th minute as Liverpool made it 12 wins from their last 13 league matches.

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea looked set for more angst on home turf when Jorginho’s penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

But Christian Pulisic came off the bench to inspire third-placed Chelsea, lifting them seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham in the fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top four finish.

In the 87th minute, Thiago Silva flicked a header towards Romelu Lukaku, prompting Craig Dawson to concede a penalty with a pull on the substitute.

Dawson was initially booked before being sent off after a VAR check, but West Ham United avoided further punishment as Jorginho’s weak spot-kick was easily saved by Fabianski.

Pulisic spared Jorginho’s blushes in the 90th minute as the United States forward met Marcos Alonso’s cross with a clinical low finish from 10 yards.

Burnley boosted their bid for a remarkable escape act as they moved into 17th place thanks to Matej Vydra’s 62nd-minute strike from a Wout Weghorst cross at Turf Moor.

James Ward-Prowse scored twice as Southampton came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Brighton.

TOTTENHAM STUMBLES AGAIN

For the second match running Tottenham Hotspur failed to register a goal attempt on target as they drew 0-0 at Brentford on Saturday, following last week’s 1-0 slip at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.

They went into the Brighton game favourites to grab fourth place and qualify for the Champions League but are now down to fifth, two points behind north London rivals Arsenal with both clubs having five games left to play.

With a home game still to come against Arsenal, the cause is not lost but Antonio Conte knows the goals must start to flow again.

“I think defensively we were good today. Offensively we can do much better. But we have to respect the game Brentford played as they played a very good game,” the Italian said.

While Tottenham fans will rue the dropped points, Conte said they should realise that at one point this season a top-four finish looked out of the question.

France’s Macron wins new presidential term after a far-right battle

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to begin efforts to unite a deeply divided nation after winning re-election on Sunday in a battle against rival Marine Le Pen that saw the far-right come its closest yet to taking power.

Centrist Macron won around 58.6 percent of the vote in the second-round run-off compared with Le Pen’s 41.4pc, according to official results from the Interior Ministry.

Macron is the first French president in two decades to win a second term, but his latest victory over his far-right rival was narrower than their last face-off in 2017, when the margin was 66.1pc to 33.9pc.

The historic gains for the far-right dampened the French leader’s celebrations on Sunday night.

Addressing supporters in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, he vowed to heal rifts in a deeply divided country.

The 44-year-old president will start his second term with the challenge of parliamentary elections in June, where keeping a majority will be critical to ensuring he can realize his ambitions.

Several hundred demonstrators from ultra-left groups took to the streets in some French cities to protest Macron’s re-election and Le Pen’s score. Police used tear gas to disperse gatherings in Paris and the western city of Rennes.

‘New era’

In his victory speech on the Champ de Mars in central Paris, Macron promised his next five-year term would respond to the frustrations of voters who backed Le Pen.

“An answer must be found to the anger and disagreements that led many of our compatriots to vote for the extreme right,” he told thousands of cheering supporters.

“It will be my responsibility and that of those around me.”

He also pledged a “renewed method” to governing France, adding that this “new era” would not be one of “continuity with the last term which is now ending”.

In a combative speech to supporters in the capital, in which she accepted the result but showed no sign of quitting politics, Le Pen, 53, said she would “never abandon” the French and was already preparing for the June legislative elections.

“The result represents a brilliant victory,” she said to cheers.

“This evening, we launch the great battle for the legislative elections,” Le Pen said, adding that she felt “hope” and calling on opponents of the president to join with her National Rally (RN) party.

‘Count on France’

For Le Pen, a third defeat in a presidential poll will be a bitter pill to swallow after she ploughed years of effort into making herself electable and distancing her party from the legacy of its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Critics insisted her party never stopped being extreme-right and racist while Macron repeatedly pointed to her plan to ban the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in public if elected.

The projections caused immense relief in Europe after fears a Le Pen presidency would leave the continent rudderless following Brexit and the departure from politics of German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Macron’s victory “great news for all of Europe” while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said French voters “sent a strong vote of confidence in Europe today”.

European Council president Charles Michel said the bloc could now “count on France for five more years” while European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen also congratulated Macron, saying she was “delighted to be able to continue our excellent cooperation”.

In another election on Sunday, Slovenia’s three-time Prime Minister Janez Jansa, criticized by opponents as an authoritarian right-wing populist, was at risk of losing power to a party led by political newcomer Robert Golob.

‘Ocean of abstention’

Macron will be hoping for a less complicated second term that will allow him to implement his vision of more pro-business reform and tighter European Union integration, after a first term shadowed by protests, then the coronavirus pandemic, and finally Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But he will have to win over those who backed his opponents and the millions of French who did not bother to vote.

Polling organizations estimated turnout of just 72pc, the lowest in any presidential election second-round run-off since 1969.

Meanwhile, 6.35pc of voters in the election voted for neither candidate in blank ballots while 2.25pc spoilt their papers.

The third-placed candidate in the first round, hard-left Jean-Luc Melenchon, had refused to endorse Macron.

Melenchon also has his eyes set on the June elections.

While he welcomed Le Pen’s defeat as “very good news for the unity of our people”, Melenchon pointed out that the two leading candidates had barely managed to win a third of support from registered voters.

Macron “is submerged in an ocean of abstention and spoilt ballots”, he said.

Stranded Afghans desperate to return home before Eid

KHYBER: Scores of stranded Afghans at the Torkham border have appealed to Pakistani authorities to allow them to go back to their homes to celebrate Eid with their families.

Pakistan had in early April imposed a ban on Afghan nationals possessing Tazkira, their national identity card, and asked them to acquire valid visas for their future cross-border movement.

The new rules impacted a large number of Afghans working and staying in different parts of Pakistan in connection with their respective occupations and jobs while possessing only their Afghan national cards (Tazkira) and proof of registration cards.

A number of these Afghans had also come to Pakistan for medical treatment and found themselves in trouble after being discharged from hospitals when they were refused a back journey to Afghanistan on Tazkira.

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Appeal to Pakistani authorities for permission to cross the border without visa

Immigration and Federal Investigation Agency officials at Torkham said that cross-border movement for Afghans by Tazkira was allowed only at Chaman. They said that no other border crossing offered such a facility to Afghan nationals under the newly implemented Individual Voluntary Agreement Policy (Ivap).

Sources told this scribe that more than 300 Afghans, mostly men, were stranded at the border while impatiently waiting for ‘a green signal’ from the Pakistani authorities for their return journey without a visa.

They said that all the stranded Afghans were either spending their days and nights in mosques, restaurants, empty spaces near Torkham market, and taxi stands.

A local youth organization with financial assistance from local philanthropists arranges Iftar and Sehri for these stranded Afghans.

Sher Mohammad, a resident of Nangarhar, said that he had plans to celebrate Eidul Fitr with his family and wanted to go home before Eid but was not allowed to cross the border as he possessed only Tazkira.

He said that he also had to abandon his job as a daily wager at a brick kiln due to a kidney ailment and spent most of his hard-earned money on his treatment while keeping some of his savings for the family back home in Afghanistan.

“Now I have spent all my money while waiting at the border for the last one week,” he said and added that he should be allowed to go home as a visa was not required for going back to someone’s country.

Khalid Khan, another stranded Afghan, said that he was desperate to go back home as his family, particularly children, were eagerly waiting for him to celebrate Eid. He said that most of them were mentally and physically exhausted due to the prolonged wait.

The stranded Afghans appealed to the Pakistani authorities to grant them one-time permission on a humanitarian basis to go back home and celebrate Eid with their near and dear ones.

Meanwhile, customs officials recovered arms and ammunition from a truck bringing coal from Afghanistan via Torkham on Sunday.

Officials said that the seized arms included five American and one Turkish prohibited bore pistols and dozens of cartridges. The driver of the vehicle was arrested.