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Real Madrid conquer Barcelona in thrilling Clasico to go top of La Liga

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Real Madrid climbed to the top of La Liga on Saturday after Karim Benzema’s flicked finish helped them claim a thrilling 2-1 victory over Barcelona in a wild Clasico at Valdebebas.
Benzema’s superb piece of skill and a deflected Toni Kroos free-kick put Madrid in charge and while Oscar Mingueza pulled one back for Barca, they fell to defeat in what could be Lionel Messi’s final appearance in this fixture.

Victory means Real Madrid go level on points with Atletico, with the top three now separated by a single point.

Atletico, without the injured Luis Suarez, face Real Betis on Sunday.

With Atletico stumbling and both Barca and Real Madrid hitting their stride, this game looked set to define, if not the title, then who would become favourites to be crowned champions in May.

The result was a riveting contest at a rain-soaked Alfredo di Stefano stadium – certainly one of the most exciting Clasicos in years – that saw both teams squander numerous chances, several efforts come back off the woodwork and Casemiro sent off in extra time.

With the last play of the game, Barcelona substitute Ilaix Moriba rattled Real Madrid’s crossbar.

Casemiro’s red card had also given Messi a free-kick and the chance for a dramatic equaliser but instead the Argentinian made it seven games now without a goal against Real Madrid, with many wondering if his 45th Clasico will be his last.

Messi might yet turn the tide in the eight games still remaining but there is no doubt Madrid are in the groove after backing up beating Liverpool 3-1 on Tuesday with another crucial victory.

They can finish the job in the Champions League at Anfield next week.

A breathless first half began with chances for both sides as Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s sloppy clearance almost gave Benzema a clear run at goal before Messi slipped in Jordi Alba but the cross was intercepted by Thibaut Courtois.

Real Madrid’s opener came after a superb counter-attack from Barcelona, Messi going down too easily on the edge of the area, with Madrid pouring forward on the break.

Fede Valverde powered through midfield and fed wide to Lucas Vazquez, whose cross was expertly flicked inside the near post by Benzema.

The goal shook Barca, who were unable to restrain the speed of Madrid and particularly Vinicius Junior on the break.

Vinicius was brought down by Ronald Araujo on the edge of the area and Kroos’ free-kick cannoned off the back off Sergino Dest and in, evading the efforts of Alba to head away on the line.

Valverde and Messi both struck the post before half-time, Valverde after another scintillating Madrid counter-attack and Messi from a corner, with Courtois beaten.

Barca coach Ronald Koeman brought Antoine Griezmann on for Dest but as the rain poured down, Madrid poured forward. Kroos and Benzema both could have scored a third and they were punished for failing to capitalise.

Griezmann jumped over Alba’s cross and as the ball skidded through, Mingueza did well to shin it into the net.

Araujo deflected Vinicius’ cross onto his own post and Alba was denied by Courtois. Again, Madrid tore away, again they missed the chance, Vinicius running onto Luka Modric’s pass but opting not to shoot, allowing Araujo to clear.

With 20 minutes left, Zinedine Zidane took off Benzema, Vinicius and Kroos.

Referee Gil Manzano had to replace his equipment because of the rain. Messi changed his shirt for a dry one.

Barcelona wantd a late penalty when Ferland Mendy clipped Martin Braithwaite with his arm but the appeal was optimistic.

Casemiro was sent off in the 90th minute for a late challenge on Mingueza, that gave Messi a free-kick on the edge of the area but Courtois saved.

With Ter Stegen up and almost the last kick of the game, Ilaix rattled the crossbar. Madrid survived.


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Osun free train service: Beneficiaries urge public to take advantage for educational purposes, excursion

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Some of the beneficiaries of the free train service usually provided during the festival periods by the government of the State of Osun, have urged the general public to take maximum advantage of the initiative for educational purposes.


The beneficiaries noted that apart from the socioeconomic support given through the laudable initiative, it behoves the citizens, particularly heads of academic institutions, to maximize the opportunity to encourage students on excursion.


This is even as the train on Sunday returned over 600 passengers who had come home to celebrate Eid-el-fitr with their loved ones back to their various destinations which include, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States respectively.
Recall that the Administration of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola has sustained the initiative as part of efforts to ease transportation and as well help to ameliorate the palpable socioeconomic challenges facing holidaymakers who are citizens of the State but residing outside Osun, and chose to celebrate their festivals in the State.


Addressing journalists while boarding the train, a beneficiary, Pastor David Oyedele, said he deliberately came to embark on the trip as part of efforts to expose the pupils of his school to rail transportation.


Oyedele, a Director of a private school in Osogbo who boarded the train with about 30 pupils, said he deemed it fit to travel with the free train service provided by the State Government, having identified and seen the great advantages that lie therein.


According to him, the free train service being sponsored by the State Government, particularly during festive periods, had opened windows of opportunity for those who can take it for personal and collective benefits.
“For instance, many believe that the initiative is restricted to convey people and luggage alone. But I want to tell them that this initiative goes beyond that, as it remains the surest way to encourage academic excursion.


“I decided to come this morning with my pupils in order to take them on excursion through this transportation means with the hope to broaden their knowledge and expose them to rail transportation rudimentary.


“As you can see, some of the pupils are seeing the train for the first time while some haven’t travelled with it before. Meanwhile, this will provide them the opportunity of not only seeing it but traveling with it.
“We have taught them the theoretical aspect and with this, they must have experienced the practical aspect by traveling with it. 


“I must commend the State Government for providing us this opportunity because if not, we might not be able to actualise this in view of what may cost each of the pupils to do so.
“I am appealing to the people, particularly those resident in Osun, to take the advantage of the initiative for academic excursions since it costs them nothing,” he added.
Also, Master Olaniyi Joshua applauded the State government for the provision of the free train service.


Joshua, a student who was on  excursion, said, “I am happy today because I have the privilege to see the train, board it and travel in it.”
Another passenger, Mr. Akinwale Oluwagbemiga, praised the initiative and described it as unprecedented.


Oluwagbemiga who claimed to have been enjoying the free train service since it was introduced, expressed delight in the fact that the progressive government has been able to sustain the initiative.


He called on the people, particularly the beneficiaries of the initiative to continue to support the government in whatever way they could in order to make the initiative a long-lasting programme.
In her remarks, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Commerce, Industry, Cooperatives and Empowerment, Mrs. Christiana Olusola Ogunfolaju, expressed delight at the impressive turnout of the passengers.


She assured of government’s commitment to continous prioritisation of the people’s welfare and well-being.
Other government’s officials in attendance during the takeoff of the train were the Coordinating Director, Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Cooperatives and Empowerment, Mrs. Kehinde Odediran; Director of Commerce and Investment Promotion, Mrs. Ajibola Falode; Director of Administration, Mr. Afeez Owolabi; Technical Assistant to the Commissioner of Commerce, Mr. Samuel Oyedemi, among others.


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Jerusalem synagogue grandstand seating collapses, 2 die, 100 injured

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Orthodox synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Giv’at Ze’ev northwest of Jerusalem has collapsed, killing two persons and injuring more than 100, Israeli emergency services confirmed.

CNN reports that at least two people have been confirmed dead in what was described as a “mass casualty event”, the head of police for Jerusalem district told Israeli television reporters.

Video broadcast on Israeli television shows dozens of worshippers falling to the ground when the crowded bleachers collapsed.

A “considerable number of worshippers were injured,” according to police. A firefighter on the scene told Israel Channel 13 that worshippers appeared to be trapped under the bleachers.

More than 100 have been injured, according to Israeli emergency medical services.

The bleacher collapse comes just over two weeks after 45 people were killed in a stampede at a religious festival at Israel’s Mount Meron, where worshipers had gathered to mark the Lag B’Omer holiday.


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Panic, disquiet as hoodlums invade, burn Police stations, Policemen killed in Delta

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Christian worshippers on Sunday stayed off churches after Police headquarters in Nsukwa, Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State, was burnt down by gunmen, who also killed three policemen on duty.

The hoodlums, who attacked the police station around 2am on Sunday, also injured one police officer, Veritynewsonline reports

An witness from om Nsukwa community, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said both the police station and the police quarters were set ablaze.

He said, “They were four policemen on guard; they shot three police officers dead, that’s the one we see, while one was injured. Even police motorcycles at the premises were burnt also. They (hoodlums) destroyed vehicle and carted away their ammunition.”

It was learnt that the Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Ali, and other security agencies visited the scene of the incident around noon to ascertain the level of the damages.


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