If Carlsberg did west London football weeks, they couldn’t have scripted the last seven days any better.The record of the area’s four top teams in that period reads played six, won six, scored 14.Chelsea might have qualified for a Champions League semi-final showdown with Barcelona in the process, but it’s Brentford who are the real Bees’ knees, having won four on the bounce – including impressive away victories at Preston and MK Dons.Uwe Rosler’s side are still five points adrift of the play-offs but if the Easter bunny is kind to them over the next few days, anything is possible.“There was typically not an Arsenal shirt in sight when we got home on Saturday.”‘Brickie chap’ on the Griffin Park Grapevine forum was forced to miss the latest triumph over Oldham to attend his mate’s 60th in a pub, but was cannily keeping up to date with proceedings via his phone.He wrote: “I nearly gave the fella a heart attack as I jumped up and shouted out ‘Get in there!’ when we went one up. The rest of the boozer sat there looking confused as they watched the Barca game!”Meanwhile ‘Bee4ever’ was laughing at “a number of middle-aged men sitting in the paddock, intermittently bursting into solo songs with no one else joining in”.I started to smile too, until I got the horrible feeling that when he said ‘middle-aged’ they were probably younger than me.Fulham moved into 10th place in the Premier League with a 2-1 win over Norwich, but their fans are more concerned with the Easter Monday showdown against Chelsea at Craven Cottage.Fulham are unbeaten in Premier League West London derbies this season after getting a draw at the Bridge, together with a 7-0 aggregate win over QPR (I wrote that through gritted teeth).A poster on the Cottage Corner messageboard confidently predicted “We can beat Chelsea on Monday.”Rosler’s Bees are flying.When another user asked how, he replied: “Score more goals than them.”How Aston Villa and Benfica must wish they’d adopted that brilliant tactical plan over these past few days.Villa were humbled 4-2 at home by the Blues while Benfica lost 2-1 in a crazy game in SW6 which could have finished 7-7.Not for the first time in this season’s Champions League, Chelsea didn’t make it easy for themselves, repelling wave after wave of attacks before Frank Lampard steadied the nerves with a trademark penalty.But when Benfica pulled one back after Ramires had somehow managed to step over the ball a yard out at the other end, Stamford Bridge turned into a quivering mass, before Raul Meireles’ late strike finally put things to bed.To qualify for the Champions League next season, Chelsea would need to overturn a five-point gap in the league, which is pretty big at this stage of the season.Or they can beat Barcelona over two legs before seeing off Real Madrid or Bayern Munich to lift the trophy and qualify automatically.Suddenly that five-point gap doesn’t look quite as big after all.Lampard’s penalty proved vital.The last time Barca were in west London they did a spot of training at QPR’s ground ahead of a trip to Arsenal – which brings us nicely to events at Loftus Road on Saturday.Adel Taarabt made it 69th time lucky by finally breaking his duck for the season with a brilliant goal, before grabbing a crafty smoke with Marouane Chamakh in a shisha café.Mark Hughes gave him a mild rebuke but when all’s said and done it’s only fruit tobacco and Adel would argue he was simply having one of his five a day.I’ve got nothing against the Gunners – my Nan and Grandad were Highbury season-ticket holders, and my mum veers between Arsenal and Spurs (despite being born in Hammersmith), while loads of my mates are Gooners, together with most of the north London street where I live in exile.Which made that little 2-1 victory last weekend all the sweeter.Year after year I’ve headed to Finsbury Park Station en route to Loftus Road and walked past the pub where the Arsenal fans are gathered to be met with polite/patronising enquiries: “Who have you got today?” ”What league are you in these days?” “How come you don’t support a proper team?”There was typically not an Arsenal shirt in sight when we got home on Saturday.I was particularly pleased my little girl was there to witness the victory, particularly after briefing her beforehand to expect the worst.Most of her class are Arsenal ‘fans’ (even though they’ve never been to see them play) and were laughing beforehand about how many they were going to stick past little old QPR…well they’re not laughing now.The only thing she does not quite get is the embarrassing dad routine that accompanies the goals, as adults revert to childhood, while their offspring tell them to calm down.Taking this on board, the first thing I did when we got to our seats was to apologise to the fella next to me for planting a smacker on his cheek during the victory over Liverpool, assuring him it wouldn’t happen again.And then Samba Diakite went and ruined everything by scoring the winner.We’re now on first-name terms and he’s insisted that if it means we’re winning games I can carry on kissing for the rest of the season.Thank the Lord there’s only three games left.Follow Chris on Twitter
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ATHENS — Panathinaikos beat host Ergotelis 2-0 through first-half goals by Marcus Berg and Abdul Jeleel Ajagun in the Greek league on March 14.The win allowed Panathinaikos to go level with archrival Olympiakos, which hosts Xanthi on March 15. Olympiacos also has an extra game to play, against Panthrakikos, after last weekend’s fixture was abandoned after heavy rains. Panathinaikos has been docked three points for crowd violence in its home game against Olympiacos.The league played for a second weekend in a row in empty stadiums, as authorities mull measures to stem crowd violence.Also, Atromitos beat Panthrakikos 2-0 and third-place PAOK drew 0-0 with fourth-place Asteras.TweetPinShare0 Shares
Patna: Two leaders of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Bihar were shot dead by unidentified men in two separate incidents, police said on Monday. Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sant Kumar Singh was shot dead by bike-borne criminals late on Sunday in Mahthi village in Samastipur district, a police official said. In another incident, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Kalyan Dutt Pandey was shot dead by assailants in Dehura locality of Siwan district on Sunday, a police official said. The police has lodged cases in both the incidents, but no arrests have been made so far. Two political killings in a day raise questions over Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s claims of rule of law Bihar.
OTTAWA – Canada’s independent elections watchdog wants no part in organizing leaders’ debates during federal elections.Elections Canada should not be involved in anything that could be seen as influencing the outcome of a campaign, acting chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault told a House of Commons committee Thursday.“I strongly believe that Elections Canada must be insulated from any decision-making regarding leaders’ debates so as to remain above the fray,” he said.“Debates are an important element of the campaign and often contribute to defining the ballot-box issues … The chief electoral officer should not be involved in matters that could be perceived as having an influence on the orientation of the campaign or the results of the election.”The committee is examining the idea of appointing an independent commission or commissioner to organize televised leaders’ debates during federal election campaigns, as promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 campaign.The debates became the subject of heated controversy in the last campaign after the then-ruling Conservatives signalled that Stephen Harper would not take part in the traditional two televised events — one English, one French — organized by a consortium of the country’s major TV networks.In the end, Harper and the other leaders took part in 5 debates organized by various media and social media outlets, including Maclean’s magazine, the Globe and Mail, Google and Facebook, as well as a consortium-organized French debate and another organized by Quebec’s TVA network.Green party Leader Elizabeth May was invited to participate in just two of the five debates while Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe was invited strictly to the two French ones.If the government opts to create an independent commission, Perrault said it should set out clear criteria as to which party leaders are to be allowed to participate in debates, leaving the commission itself little or no discretion in the matter.“This question has given rise to significant controversy over the years. An independent commission should not be mired in controversies regarding inclusion, especially in the middle of a campaign.”Perrault also warned that the exclusion of smaller parties in future might run afoul of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Some small parties have in the past gone to court to challenge their exclusion from the debates. But those cases failed because the debates were considered “essentially private events” that were not subject to scrutiny under the charter, he said.“This would likely no longer be the case if the state, or an entity created by the state, were to play a role in organizing the debates.”While he’d give the commission little leeway to decide who can participate, Perrault said it should have “broad latitude” to decide the format and “editorial aspects” of the debates, such as the choice of moderator and questions to be asked. Such latitude is necessary given the rapid evolution of the mainstream media and social media landscape, he said.Representatives of the traditional network consortium — CBC, CTV, Global Television and Radio-Canada — said they’re willing to work with an independent commission. But they argued that most decisions should be left up to them since, combined, they reach the most Canadians, adhere to journalistic standards and have expertise in producing shows that people will actually watch.The consortium did agree it would be helpful if the government was to legislate a requirement for a minimum number of debates during each election campaign, which would compel party leaders to participate.That would do away with what CBC’s Jennifer McGuire described as “the biggest flaw in the current system”: the secret negotiations in which parties threaten not to participate unless the terms of the debate benefit their respective leaders.“Each party pushes for every edge it can get, from where and when the debate takes place, to who can take part, to what format is acceptable,” she told the committee. “They threaten to withhold their participation as they seek terms to give them advantage.”The consortium representatives faced some pointed questioning by Conservative MP John Nater, who repeatedly asked why the major networks refused to broadcast the debates hosted by other media outlets in 2015. He accused them of acting “like a kid in the schoolyard, that if you don’t get your way, you’re not playing.”Troy Reeb of Corus Entertainment, which owns Global Television, bluntly said there was no way the networks were going to “willy-nilly take a product” produced by another outlet, over whose standards they’d had no input, and put it on the air — especially not when it involved splashing the logo of the rival outlet all over the set.The consortium would have no way of knowing what trade-offs the other outlets made behind the scenes to ensure participation by all the leaders at a time when “we knew for a fact, as members of the consortium, that one party in particular was seeking very friendly terms” in return for its participation, Reeb added.