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Soccer-Chelsea win Champions League as Havertz goal tames City

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(Last Updated On: May 30, 2021)

Chelsea won their second Champions League title and denied Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City their first after Kai Havertz grabbed a first-half goal to secure a 1-0 win in Saturday’s all-English final at the Estadio Do Dragao.

The German youngster, Chelsea’s record signing, kept his composure as he raced through and evaded goalkeeper Ederson before rolling the ball into an empty net in the 42nd minute to decide a tight encounter played in front of a 16,500 crowd.

Premier League champions City were favorites ahead of the final but suffered a desperately disappointing night in their first Champions League showpiece match.

Despite winning three of the last four Premier League titles for City, Spaniard Guardiola failed to deliver the coveted European trophy he last won with Barcelona in 2011.

For Chelsea’s German manager Thomas Tuchel the triumph comes after his Paris St Germain side suffered defeat in last season’s final against Bayern Munich and just four months after he took over from Frank Lampard at the west London club.

“To share it with everybody is incredible. We made it. Wow. I don’t know what to feel,” said Tuchel. “I was so grateful to arrive a second time (in the final). I felt different.

“They (players) were determined to win this. We wanted to be a stone in their (City’s) shoe. We encouraged everybody to step up and step out, to be more brave,” he said.

While Tuchel got his approach spot on, Guardiola’s team selection was surprising with Raheem Sterling brought in on the left, neither regular holding midfielder, Fernandinho or Rodri, picked and Ilkay Gundogan left to protect the backline.

It quickly became apparent the move had left City’s defense exposed with Chelsea creating early chances, three of which fell to German Timo Werner who failed to capitalise – miskicking one, shooting softly at Ederson, and then finding the side-netting.

Gundogan’s already difficult task got harder when he was booked for a foul on Mason Mount in the 34th minute.

Chelsea also suffered a setback when their experienced Brazilian center-back Thiago Silva went down awkwardly after a header and had to limp off six minutes before the break, being replaced by Andreas Christensen.

However, three minutes later Chelsea struck. Midfielder Mount split the City defense with a superb through ball and Ederson rushed out of his goal but was unable to stop Havertz from skipping past him and slotting into the unguarded net.

City’s night got worse when key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne had to go off with a concussion injury after an accidental clash with Antonio Rudiger left him on the ground, with Guardiola throwing on Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus in his place.

Christian Pulisic came on for Chelsea to become the first American to play in a Champions League final and almost the first to score when he was slipped in by Havertz but then drifted his shot just wide of the post.

City gradually began to get the upper hand but their usual composure was lacking and it was not until deep into stoppage time that they went close with a hopeful effort from Riyad Mahrez that clipped the bar.

The final whistle set off wild celebrations for the Chelsea fans who had flown in for the game, while dejected City supporters headed off for the flights back to Manchester.

“Decisions are always to try to win the game,” said Guardiola, when asked to reflect on his team selection.

“The way we played the game in the second half, they had one counter attack with Pulisic. They’re a really good team, but we competed perfectly against them. In the second half we deserved to score one goal but we couldn’t do it.”

“I would like to say it was an exceptional season for us. Unfortunately we couldn’t win. We tried, but we couldn’t do it and will work harder from here,” added the Spaniard, whose side won the League Cup to go with their Premier League crown.

Tuchel has faced City three times in six weeks and won every time. Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich, watching from the stands, must have had a wry smile to himself as once again his ruthless approach to managerial changes has paid off.

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Abdullah quashes rumors of districts being abandoned intentionally

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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2021)

Following the collapse of a number of districts across Afghanistan in the past six weeks, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah stated that “the abandonment of these districts (by security forces) was unplanned”.

So far, at least 33 districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1.

In the most recent development, Anar Dara district in Farah province; Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan province; and Gosfandi and Sayyad districts of Sar-e-Pul province were captured by the militants in the last 24 hours.

Sources told Ariana News that at least 40 members of the Afghan forces have been killed in Sar-e-Pul alone in the last week.

Abdullah, however, stated that there had been no plans ahead of time by security forces to abandon the districts. This comes after rumors started circulating a few days ago that security forces have intentionally planned to hand over districts to the Taliban.

Addressing a meeting with Friedrich Ebert Foundation members on Tuesday, Abdullah said: “The consecutive abandonment of the districts by the security forces is not part of an orderly plan.”

“It is not true that the districts are being handed over to the Taliban based on a plan,” Abdullah added.

Abdullah also called on people to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) amid a surge in clashes across the country.

“We know the situation is bad, but it is the responsibility of all of us to carry the burden and to come up with [support for] the current situation,” he stated.

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Taliban captures another 4 districts bringing total to 33

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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2021)

Taliban militants have captured another four districts in four provinces in the last 24 hours, sources confirmed.

According to the sources, Anar Dara district in Farah province; Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan province; and Gosfandi and Sayyad districts of Sar-e-Pul province were captured by the militants, bringing the number of fallen districts to 33 since May 1.

Afghan officials, however, stated that Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) have “tactically retreated” from the districts.

In Farah, the Taliban blew up the government compound after capturing the center of Anar Dara district.

Police said the compound was completely destroyed in the explosion.

In Uruzgan, the insurgents captured the government compound, police headquarters, provincial NDS headquarters, and a number of public facilities on Tuesday morning.

This comes after First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday called the advancement of the Taliban a “narrow line” and warned that the paths into the districts will be turned into a mass graveyard for the militants.

In a statement issued on Monday, Saleh said: “Those who know how to fight with the Taliban, know that this narrow line will become the mass graveyard of this group of terror and ignorance.”

Saleh, meanwhile, stated that the Taliban militants have not changed the way they treat the people of Afghanistan.

“Do not be deceived by [Taliban’s] propaganda. Resisting the Taliban is defending human values and dignity. Taliban has no message for the people of this country other than demanding obedience as a slave life,” Saleh said.

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U.N. readies for more displaced Afghans after troop withdrawal

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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2021)

The United Nations is preparing for a likely further displacement of civilians in Afghanistan after U.S. and international troops leave the country in September, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi told Reuters on Monday.

Violence has been rising as foreign forces begin withdrawing and efforts to broker a peace settlement between the Afghan government and insurgent Taliban have slowed.

Grandi pointed to a deadly attack last week on an international demining organization in northern Afghanistan, which killed 10 people.

“This is a tragic indicator of the type of violence that may be resurfacing in Afghanistan and with the withdrawal of the international troops this is possibly or likely going to become worse,” Grandi said.

“Therefore we are doing contingency planning inside the country for further displacement, in the neighboring countries in case people might cross borders,” he said, without offering details of those plans.

There are currently some 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan globally, while another 4.8 million have been displaced within the country, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, which Grandi heads.

After 20 years, the United States has started a withdrawal of its remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and aims to be completely out of the country by Sept. 11. Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries – along with Australia, New Zealand and Georgia – are also planning to leave by Sept. 11.

Grandi said strong international support was needed for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“It’s political action that should substitute conflict but, of course, the risk (of further displacement) is there and we need to be prepared,” he added.

U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

“What’s needed is a high level of economic support for Afghanistan humanitarian assistance to maximize the chance the Afghan authorities have to stabilize the situation,” U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told Reuters on Monday.

“There’s been very good and constructive outreach from the Biden administration, from the White House down, and we have actually had very productive discussions with them on that,” added Lowcock, who steps down from his role this month.

Earlier this month, the United States announced more than $266 million in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, bringing to nearly $3.9 billion the total amount of such aid it has provided since 2002.

Some 18.4 million people, almost half the country’s population, need humanitarian help, according to the United, Nations, which has appealed for $1.3 billion in funding for 2021. So far it has only received about 23% of that.

Lowcock said that until a few years ago there had been a lot of international attention in Afghanistan. That has “dissipated and weakened and that is a sort of problem when it comes to drawing attention to the needs of Afghanistan and getting support for them.”

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