Rangers recorded a remarkable 2-1 away win over perennial city rival Celtic in reverse fixture of the Scottish Premier League popularly known as the Old Firm Derby. Having lost the 1st fixture 0-2 at their own back yard Ibrox Stadium, the Steven Gerrard tutored side ensured revenge by inflicting 1st defeat in 16 matches across all competitions on Neil Lennon and his Celtic side.
It was a derby match worthy of a feisty rivalry tie, with no shortage of controversy and drama, and it all began to unfold just after the half-hour mark(32′) when Celtic won a penalty against the run of play for an infringement inside the box. Celtic’s Ryan Christie stepped forward to see his kick saved by Rangers’ goalie Allan McGregor.
Four(4) minutes after the spot-kick save, Rangers took the lead. Borna Barisic inswing was met, 1st-time at the near post by in-form Ryan Kent. A well-deserved lead for the away side Rangers, having dominated proceedings.
But then, the lead lasted just 6 minutes as the home side Celtic hit back in a rather controversial circumstance. Callum McGregor’s ambitious effort was deflected into the Rangers’ net by his teammate Oddonne Edouard’s hand. Surprisingly, the centre referee Clancy Kevin awarded the goal, under FIFA reviewed rules, he shouldn’t have.
However, Rangers wouldn’t go down without a fight, and they regained the lead deservedly in the 56th minute. Once again, Rangers’ left-back Barisic with his 2nd assist of the afternoon, the Croatian’s pin-point corner-kick was headed home by centre-back Nikola Katic.
There was time for a late drama as Rangers’ bad boy Alfredo Morelos(90′ + 6′) got his marching order for simulation in added time of regulation time. Morelos’ 7th red card in Rangers’ colour(3 seasons).
Rangers held on to record the 1st win at Celtic Park in 9 years(2010). With 50 points from 19 matches, Rangers have now cut Celtic’s lead to 2 points and with a game in hand, as shown in SPL Table in detail
Arsenal fans across the globe give a huge sigh of relief to see their darling club side recorded a win at last in the English premier league. it seemed like ages ago since the Gunners last win a match, an Arsenal fan told me she doesn’t know what it’s like to celebrate a win anymore, poor girl! Well, the long wait is finally over.
The Gunners, under the caretaker coaches, former Arsenal players, led by Freddie Ljungberg(supported by Per Mertesacker) recovered from a goal down to defeat West Ham 3-1 at the London Stadium. It was Arsenal’s 1st win in 10 matches in all competitions.
With Arsenal free-falling under the dismissed manager Unai Emery, clearly desperate measures needed to be taken. The Spaniard oversaw 5 winless league matches(D, L, D, D, L) and 7 winless matches in all competitions(L, D, L, D, D, L, D), Arsenal’s worst run since George Graham’s led side went on an 8 winless run in 1992. How fortune changes in a blink of an eye, it is hard to believe that it was the same Emery that led Arsenal last season to 11 consecutive wins(22-game unbeaten run), the Gunners best run since 2007. Emery’s 18-month stint with the Gunners is now the 4th shortest managerial role in the club’s 133 years history.
As it is with every new manager, the apparent task is to improve the mood in and out of the locker room, on and off the pitch, and the interim handlers have their hands full with an Arsenal side lacking not just the will but leadership and mental strength. Ljungberg had tagged the mood as “strange”. His 1st 2 matches in charge didn’t go according to scripts as the Gunners were held 2 all by Norwich City and fell 1-2 at home to Brighton and Hove Albion, Arsenal’s 8th & 9th game without a win.
However, 3rd time is a charm as some would say, Ljungberg’s 3rd match as the Gunners’ handler finally brought the much-coveted 3 points. It was hard-fought though, as Arsenal fell behind in the 38th minute, Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected header flat-footed Bernd Leno in Gunners’ goal. Arsenal was poor and laboured almost in vain for an equalizer, however, West Ham, also in troubled waters of their own, took their feet off the gas for 9 minutes and were made to rue their sloppiness. Gabriel Martinelli(60′), Nicolas Pepe(66′) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang(69′) completed Gunners fight back.
Read little meaning to the win though as the team need more than a win over equally under-fire West Ham to think that the storm is over. Nevertheless, fans can savour this moment while it lasts.
Rangers’ wait for a silverware will have to wait for a little longer as they were peeped to the Scottish League Cup by perennial rivals Celtic on Sunday evening, the Ibrox team were defeated 1 nil in the 1st of line-up Old Firm derbies of the season. It has been almost 8 years(2011 league and League Cup double) since Rangers last won a major honour and this season looks like The Teddy Bears are going to put an end to that drought due to the newfound belief in the camp and their competitiveness in the league so far, thanks to the tutelage of the Gaffer Steven Gerrard. The Scottish League Cup presented the 1st opportunity to match the belief with success, however, the holders, Celtic aren’t going to relinquish their Cup easily.
Celtic has dominated Scottish football for quite some time now, The Bhoys or Hoops are on a streak of a domestic treble(League Championship, the Scottish Cup, the Scottish League Cup)
since 2016, not even the loss of former manager Brendan Rodgers could derail the 3rd treble last season, Celtic manager Neil Lennon has sure picked up where he left it last season.
Cup competition or not, the Old Firm Derby has always been a keenly contested fixture between city rivals Rangers and Celtic including friendlies. Many have predicted this season’s fixtures particularly to potentially be the game-changer. It seems Celtic is not just winning the battle, she is on the path of winning the war too. The psychological effect of this defeat on Rangers may be fatal in subsequent meetings.
If history was anything to go by, Rangers should have carried the day. Rangers have played Celtic in 14 finals of the Scottish League Cup and have prevailed 9 times in contrast to Celtic’s 5, and if the 1st half performance was also put into reckoning, Rangers should have buried the game long before the break, however, Celtic’s goalkeeper Fraser Forster was in impeccable form, coming to his team’s rescue when called upon.
Against the run of play, Celtic took the lead just on the hour mark, Christopher Jullien(60′) scored from a well-placed freekick from teammate Ryan Christie. Rangers should have levelled 3 minutes later when Celtic was reduced to 10 men after Jeremie Frimpong brought down Rangers Alfredo Morelos in the box, however, the Colombian saw the resultant spot-kick saved by the inspired Celtic’s Fraser Forster.
Rangers threw everything they’ve got at Celtic for the remainder of the game but Celtic remained resolute in defending despite playing with a man down for about half an hour. Rangers striker Morelos is also guilty of squandering several golden chances.
It is now a 4th consecutive Scottish League Cup for Celtic, 10 consecutive domestic honours for the Hoops, spanning over just 3 and a half seasons. For Steven Gerrard and his lads, on the other hand, the battle has been lost, can they regroup to claim the war(league championship)?
Congratulations to Neil Lennon and Celtic, another dominant season beckons.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery’s days at the Emirate appear to be numbered, another lacklustre performance and poor results by the Gunners, a 2 nil loss to Leicester City made it a run of 4 league matches without a win(including 2 home draws against Wolves & Crystal Palace) and 5 in all competitions(including the 1-1 draw at lowly Guimaraes in the UEFA Europa Cup & the Carabao Cup defeat to Liverpool’s reserve team).
The Spaniard arrived at Emirate last season with promises, even though he blew his chance to mark his debut season with a UEFA Europa League Trophy(lost the final to Chelsea) and squandered the chance of an EPL top 4 finish from a vantage position, he was still cut some slack by many Arsenal fans, many who sited the state and disposition of the team he inherited from his predecessor Arsene Wenger. However, the Spaniard had overseen 3 transfer windows and is still unable to steady Arsenal ship. His choice of signings has raised more questions than answers, especially his decision to okay the big-money signing of winger, Nicholas Pepe when Arsenal could have invested such huge money on a world-class defender, a Van Dijk-Esque signing so to say, an area that has been Arsenal’s weak link for years, now it’s happening all over again, Arsenal just cannot hold onto a lead.
Emery is into his 2nd season at Arsenal and it is disturbing and quite unclear what tactics Emery deploys, it seems to me that the gaffer just sets the players on the pitch and ask them to do their thing. Amid the uncertainty of Emery’s tactics is the consistent underuse and/or playing from out of position of certain players such as Alex Lacazette, Lucas Torreira, Dani Ceballos, Mesut Ozil, … The hallmark of an Arsenal team has always been the attack, there was never a shortage of goals during Wenger reign, but now the team hardly create scoring chances let alone scoring, it’s appalling.
What kind of team manager elected his team captain(Granit Xhaka) against the popular choice of Sokratis or David Luiz and then turn around some few weeks later to replace him? Now staring in Emery’s face are a bunch of unhappy players, plus he(Emery) now has an uphill task of winning back the support of the fans, who increasingly grows frustrated and impatient with the team’s string of poor results.
For a script of Emery’s confusion on what players to play or tactics to use, it’s written all over the latest defeat at Leicester City, just 1 shot on target all evening from a mere 5 shots in total, in contrast to Leicester’s total shots of 14, 7 of which are on target. Arsenal isn’t even dominating opponent anymore, they recorded 45% of the possession, as the Foxes outplayed [[them with 55% of the ball possession.
Emery’s sack seems not to be a matter of ‘IF’ but ‘When’, and it won’t cause a shock if he’s relieved off his job in coming days.
Andy Murray has won his 1st title in about 25 months(since March 2017) after defeating the 3-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in a pulsating 3-set final at the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium on Sunday, the Scot recovered from a set down, to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Murray, in tears after his victory, said,
I didn’t expect to be in this position at all, so I am very, very happy – Murray.
About 10 months ago, after his 1st round exit from the Australian Open, an emotional Murray announced that the Aussie championship might be his last, having endured a painful and reoccurring hip injury, however, a relentless Murray has undergone a career-saving surgery and now, the rest is story. Returning to active playing only in July(about 6 months after surgery), Murray defiled the odds and lifted the ATP 250, what an inspiring journey for the Brit.
It didn’t come easy for the 3-time Grand Slam champion(2 Wimbledon & 1 US Open), he had to battle in 3 setters through the quarterfinal, semifinal & the final against Romania’s Marius Copil(6-3, 6(7)-(9)7 & 6-4), France’s Ugo Humbert (3-6, 7-5 & 6-2) and Swiss’ Stan Wawrinka respectively.
The world number 243 Murray, understandably started slowly against the world number 18 Wawrinka and was soon 0-3 down in the 1st set. However, he soon grew in confidence and into the set but he couldn’t overturn the deficit, losing 3-6 to Wawrinka
The 2nd set was a much better performance by Murray, reminiscing the old competitive Murray. Despite trailing game 3 1-2, Murray would eventually save 3 breakpoints in game 9 to lead 5-4. Murray then broke Wawrinka’s serve in game 10 to win 6-4 and levelled matters 1 set apiece, to force a deciding 3rd set.
The back and forth game continued into the 3rd set, as both players broke each other serves, to tie game 6 at 3 all. However, it was Wawrinka who blinked 1st, allowing Murray to break him again and took the final set 6-4.
Andy Murray’s win was received with rapturous cheers from the crowd, not even Murray’s losing opponent could hold back his happiness for Murray, in his words,
To see you back at this level, it’s amazing. We’re all really happy – Wawrinka.
Give it up to arguably British finest Andy Murray.
At a time when a league win seems out of reach for Manchester United, the last team they want to play would be Liverpool, poor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at this point in time could really use the phrase “why me”? Manchester United are undergoing their worst start to a season in a very long time(30 years). Sitting in an unfamiliar 12th position on the EPL table with just 9 points in their 8 fixtures so far, United have it all to do. And it could get even worse for United in the Bloody Red rivalry as Jurgen Klopp’s evading army come visiting at Old Trafford this Sunday in the EPL matchday 9.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may be wearing a smiley face and keeping calm despite United’s frustrating start to the season, but make no mistake, all is not calm in United’s camp. A defeat to Liverpool in Sunday’s clash will most likely unravel the background storm in United’s camp, and Solskjaer will have to spend most of his post-match conferences answering questions surrounding his future as United manager.
United’s only glimmer of hope against Liverpool will be the fact that the fixture is taking place at the historical Theatre of Dreams, a ground Liverpool has not won since the 2013/14 season, in fact, Liverpool’s last 2 league visit was a 0-0 draw in Feb 2019 and a 1-2 loss in March 2018. However, many believe that the present United team is so low in confidence and carries no fear factor, the usually formidable Old Trafford fortress no longer scares visiting rivals, if an inconsistent Arsenal team could earn a point at Old Trafford, why can’t the unstoppable force like Liverpool.
Manchester United’s course was made even harder with the news of recuperation set back for Paul Pogba, and a groin injury sustained by 1st choice goalkeeper David de Gea during the international break. 1st team regulars such as Anthony Marshall and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are still not 100% fit and might not feature against Liverpool, one will feel for Solskjaer really.
While there is disarray in United’s camp, and most of the discussion and argument surrounding United is whether they can muster together a couple of wins,
Liverpool’s ship seems to be on cruise control, a 17-consecutive-league win is a testament to that, and it could get more flattering with a victory over United on Sunday, a feat that would make Liverpool equal Manchester City’s 18-consecutive league wins, set in 2017/18 season. There is a strong belief amongst Liverpool fans that they can go the entire season undefeated, just like the invisible Arsenal side of 2003/04 season. A long way to go but Liverpool is certainly grinding out results even when they are not in their usual best.
H2H: The H2H stats for the past 2 season shows a win and a defeat for both clubs, while 2 of the meetings ended in a stalemate, the last of those drab draws came early this year at Old Trafford. However, form and odds still favour a Liverpool win, understandably so, 100% start to the season cannot be overlooked. But like it is always the case, odds and bookmakers’ scripts are always thrown into the bin in fierce rivalry clash such as Manchester United – Liverpool.
My pity for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will definitely cloud my judgement and prediction, so, I’ll sit on the fence on this one. A draw will be a good result for United and might buy Solskjaer some more time.
If there is any team in the EPL that needed the International break so badly, it would be Manchester City. The Citizens, before the break, fell to a shocking 0-2 defeat at the hand of Wolverhampton Wanderers in matchday 8, the break would have handed Pep Guardiola the needed time and space to ruminate and fashion the next line of action for his stuttering defence line. A trip to Crystal Palace in matchday 9 come Saturday offers City a chance to respond to critics and shows their title credentials. Any further slip up would spell doom for the Citizens and they may as well kiss goodbye to the title defence.
Pep Guardiola’s decision not to replace the departed Vincent Kompany in the heart of Manchester City’s backline seems to be taking a toll on City’s title defence. With centre back, Aymeric Laporte out injured and John Stone consistently going on and off the treatment table, City is left thin at the rare guard and now left with Nicolas Otamendi as the only senior centre back available. Even though make-shift defender Fernandinho is doing a decent job, the home defeat to Wolves has shown that the Citizens are lightweight at the back and hence, an urgent call for reinforcement need to be addressed.
Sitting in 6th position on the English Premier League table with 14 points, just 2 points adrift of their Saturday opponent, Crystal Palace offers a genuine test, another potential banana peel to Manchester City. The Eagles sure know how to hurt City, they defeated City 3-2 at the Etihad in one(1) of the league fixtures last season and will sure draw inspiration from that victory going into Saturday’s late kickoff.
City was on a decent run of form before slumping to the shocking 0-2 home loss to Wolves, however, they still hold the H2H advantage over Palace in the last 5 league meetings. Crystal Palace, on the other hand, comes into matchday 9 with a back-to-back league wins and had lost just 1 league fixture in their last 5(W3-D1-L1) but they still fall short of City on H2H stats, losing 3(including the two 0-5 losses in May & September 2017) and drawing 1.
Manchester City is sweating over the fitness of their mercurial midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, though there are several players that can fill De Bruyne void, the importance of the Belgian to City’s title defence cannot be over over-emphasized, 8 assists in 7 league fixtures is a testimony of De Bruyne’s role. Other usual suspects include Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and a host of other goal threat across the team.
Crystal Palace do not possess the array of stars City boasts off but they do have tricky players of their own, one(1) of such players is the much sought after Wilfried Zaha. Though Zaha has not fully hit the ground running for Palace this season, he is still a menace for any opposition. Of course, the likes of Jordan Ayew, Andros Townsend will run at opposition all day long.
Prediction: It has to be a straight win for Manchester City or else, they can kiss the league title bye-bye. So, I am going to stick out my neck for a City 3-1 win.
The English Men National Football Team, the 3 Lions slummed to their 1st defeat in a qualifier(World or Europe) in 10 years, when they went down 1-2 to the Czech Republic on Friday night, in a matchday 5 of the Euro 2020 qualification tie. The defeat was the 1st after 43 unbeaten games( W34 & D9). The 3 Lions last defeat was a 0-1 loss to Ukraine in a FIFA World cup qualifier in 2009 under the tutelage of Fabio Capello.
Tagged by many as the worst performance by the 3 Lions under Gareth Southgate, England was abysmal on the night, not just in the defence but in the attack too where they registered just 7 shots(only 4 on target) all night, a far cry of a team that had scored 19 goals in her last 4 qualifiers.
The defeat didn’t come as a surprise to many, it’s been long coming. The inconsistency and schoolboy errors made by the defence line in recent games has made England susceptible to a disciplined team. The 3 goals conceded in the 5-3 win over lowly Kosovo in the last game highlighted the concern at the back.
The tie against Czech started according to plan, England got off to a flying start in the 5th minute when Raheem Sterling was brought down in the box. Harry Kane stepped forward and dispatched from 12 yards. However, the lead lasted just 4 minutes. England failed to clear a corner kick and Jakub Brabec made them pay by firing home Czech’s equalizer. A draw could have saved England’s blushes on the night but they were caught napping again with 5 minutes left in regulation time, Zdenek Ondrasek on hand for Czech’s winner.
Player rating confirm how poor the 3 Lions were on the night, especially the defence line where only Jordan Pickford(7 pts) exhibited some worlds class saves. The quartet of Kieran Trippier(5 pts), Harry Maguire(5 pts), Michael Keane(4 pts) & Danny Rose(5pts) were all below par with their performances. Not even Declan Rice(4 pts) and Jordan Henderson(5 pts) tasked with the responsibility of protecting the defence line covered themselves in glory.
A win would have made England only the 2nd team after Belgium to have qualified for the 2020 showpiece but they will have to try again with a trip to Bulgaria on Monday night. The Czech Republic, on the other hand, boosted their chance of qualification with the win over England, now joint top with the 3 Lions on 12 points, though with a game more than England.
Manager Gareth Southgate alongside his captain Harry Kane agreed that the result was a wake-up call for the team, and the team needed a response come Monday against Bulgaria in an already tensed match built up.
The 2019 America’s Major League Soccer(MLS) playoff lineup is now completed and most of the biggest franchise made the postseason championship. High profile players will get another opportunity to steer the team to glory, amongst these big guns includes; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Vela, Josef Martinez and a host of others. The complete list of 14 clubs(7 each from both Eastern and Western Conferences) that made the Audi Cup is shown below, also see the detailed standings of both conferences here
Eastern Conference: New York City FC(NYC), Atlanta United, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution(NER).
Western Conference: Los Angeles FC(LAFC), Seattle Sounders(SEA), Real Salt Lake(RSL), Minnesota United, Los Angeles Galaxy(LAG), Portland Timbers, FC Dallas.
LAFC & Carlos Vela: There is no better place to begin this review than in Los Angeles, the City that houses rivals, LAFC and LAG. LAFC secured the top spot in the Western Conference and made history in the process, scoring 72 points, some 16 points ahead of the nearest rival in the Western Conference(SEA) and 8 points ahead of the Eastern Conference leader(NYC). LAFC now holds the highest points total in a single-season and scored a staggering 85 goals, also the highest by a club in a single season.
The manner by which LAFC stormed out of the block was remarkable, recording a commanding lead for the entirety of the regular season, securing the Supporter’s Shield with matches to spare. One man stood out for LAFC success story, Carlos Vela. The Mexican ruthlessness in front of the opposition goal has seen him broken the MLS single-season goal haul with 34 goals(the former record was 31 goals scored last season by Atlanta United Josef Martinez). Vela’s game is more than scoring, he also contributed 15 assists, 3rd on the assist chart this season. No doubt Vela is the overwhelming favourite for the season’s MVP.
LAG & Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Can Zlatan carry the LAG into the playoff? This was a burning question that has been asked in various quarters some weeks back, well, the answer is yes, Zlatan can. Having endured a tough season, a see-saw season that saw LAG dangerously languishing out of the playoff spot. Then, eyebrows were raised and the questions were asked whether LAG would miss the playoff for a 3rd consecutive season, however, the Swede star answered critics in style.
With the regular season coming to the home stretch, Zlatan went on a scoring spree of 14 goals in the last 10 matches of the regular season, lifting LAG from 8th to 5th on the Western Conference table. Zlatan eventually finished the season with 30 goals, 4 short of Vela for the golden boot race. The Swedish was recently quoted saying that he is the best ever in MLS history, maybe he was right or he was just being Zlatan.
Atlanta United & Josef Martinez: Atlanta United will have the chance to defend the title she won last season, having made the playoff yet again by finishing 2nd on the Eastern Conference table. With 54 points, Atlanta fell short of their last season point total of 69, however, the postseason championship presents another opportunity to finish 2019 on a high. Atlanta United’s standout player is Josef Martinez, the Venezuelan made a name for himself last season by winning not just the MVP but the Golden boot as well, scoring a record 31 goals that have now been broken by Vela. Martinez, at some point this season was neck-to-neck with Vela & Zlatan on the scorers chat but suffered injury and eventually finished the regular season with 27 goals, 7 short of Vela’s 34.
D.C. United & Wayne Rooney: D.C. United finished 5th on Eastern Conference log table and thereby made the playoff cut. Having made a decent start to the season, they wobbled at some stage but recovered quickly. Coming into the home stretch, D.C. United was unbeaten in their last 5 games of the season(W3, D2).
D.C. United also has a household name in their ranks, former Manchester United and England International Wayne Rooney. Rooney has been decent for D.C. United this season, directly involved in 19(11 goals & 8 assists) of D.C. United’s 42 goals. The Highlight of Rooney’s season was the 70 yards strike against Orlando City, however, his decision to call his time quit at D.C. United after just 2 seasons and join English Championship side Derby County marred his season.
Liverpool’s march for glory will be tested when they host high-flying Leicester City in a matchday 8 fixture on Saturday. The Reds aren’t naive of the threat that the Foxes pose to the traditional EPL top 4, top 6 clubs. Of course, Liverpool cannot forget in a hurry, the hurting inflicted by the likes of Leicester on their way to missing the EPL title last season, Liverpool led the league with 60 points, 4 points ahead of Manchester City, going into the matchday 24 at home to Leicester. The Reds were held 1-1 by the Foxes, a result that came first in a string of 4 draws for Liverpool(1-1 vs West Ham, 0-0 vs Man Utd & 0-0 vs Everton), that ultimately cost them the league. This weekend’s fixture is one Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will definitely not be taken lightly.
Liverpool: There is no doubt about the threat Liverpool possesses in the attack, the front 3 of Mane, Firmino & Salah have between them shared 11 out of 18 league goals scored by Liverpool, not to forget the threat coming from both right and left-back through the marauding Trent Alex-Arnold and Andrews Robertson. However, there is a new worry brewing, the once impenetrable Van Dijk led defence line seems to be conceding needless goals. Having conceded 22 goals in the entire league last season, Liverpool has conceded 5 this season already(at this rate, they will concede more than last season). They conceded goals(3) at Anfield in the UEFA Champions League for the 1st time in 5 matches(since UCL matchday 1 3-2 win over PSG last season). There is no undermining of their stand-in goalkeeper Adrian but they use the return of their safest hands Alisson Becker between the posts.
Leicester City: After the 2015/16 title-winning fairy tale run, Leicester has struggled to challenge for titles since. However, another managerial shakeup of brought in former Liverpool and Celtic manager Brendan Rogers, and he has since helped breathe in a new belief within the squad. Leicester sits 3rd in EPL table with 14 points, just 2 points adrift of Manchester City in 2nd place, having played 7, won 4, drawn 2 and lost just 1 so far. The Foxes have scored 13 goals and conceded as much as their weekend opponent. More of a team-playing side rather than a star-studded one like Liverpool, they boast of some decent players in their ranks too, a pacey striker in Jamie Vardy, a ball-playing midfielder in James Maddison, a combative defensive midfielder in Wilfred Ndidi and a few others.
H2H: Liverpool(W3, D1, L1) holds the advantage in this fixture, winning 3 of the last 5 league meetings. Leicester(W1, D1, L3), on the other hand, had just 1 win in the last 5. However, whoever underestimate how cunning a fox can be, does so at his own peril, if Red Bull Salzburg can score 3 at Anfield, why not Leicester.
Liverpool needs to be wary of Leicester’s counter-attacking threat, the Foxes will sure sit deep and hit back on the break, with the pace of Vardy and passes of Maddison to exploit. It promises to be an entertaining tie.
Prediction: Bookmakers still favour the Reds’ home win, understandably so, their 16 straight league wins weren’t a mere feat. It’s looking like a narrow 1 goal margin win for Liverpool but a score draw cannot be overlooked. 1-0 Liverpool win.
The Italian Serie A is into matchday 5 and surprisingly, it is not the familiar name Juventus at the summit of the league table, the Old Ladies are rather playing catch up in 2nd place to the frontrunner, the Nerazzurri. With 100% start to the season, Inter Milan sits in what seems to be an unfamiliar territory, having not assumed this position for a very long time. Internationale stays aloft of Juventus with 2-clear points and with other rivals such as Napoli, Roma & AC Milan dropping further points, the title race look set to be a 2-horse race between Internationale and Juventus.
Internationale latest win was a hard-fought 1 nil home win over seasoned campaigner Lazio. Internationale, coming from a crucial 2 nil win over city rival AC Milan, brims with confidence, her Rome base opponent Lazio, matches Internationale’s last result with a 2 nil home win over Parma and couldn’t be underestimated.
Both teams deployed a 3-5-2 formation and so the clash was a fierce midfield battle with few clear cut chances. However, it was Lazio who blinked first, allowing Internationale to strike a blow in the 23rd minute, Danilo D’ambrosio deployed at right wing-back sneaked in at the back post to nod home from close range, from a fine cross off teammate, left wing-back Cristiano Biraghi. Lazio huffed and puffed for an equalizer and should have gotten one, but Internationale’s man between the sticks, Samir Handanovic, making his 300th appearance for the club, was in heroic form, denying Lazio with fine saves. The win makes Inter Milan the 23rd team in the Serie A to win her 1st 5-league matches, much to the delight of the manager Antonio Conte, who in his post-match comment refused to duel on the feat and urged his team not to be overwhelmed by the feat also, but rather focus on the ultimate goal.
Some think that Inter Milan’s early charge will fade away with time, just as Napoli faded away in the 2015/16, having led the league for a very long time, they were eventually overtaken by Juventus who at some stage were languishing in the bottom half of the league table. However, statistics have also shown that 59% of the 22 teams that have in the past won their 1st 5-Serie A matches, have gone on to win the Scudetto. The stats include 3 of Juventus last 8 titles(2014/15; Won 1st 6-matches, 2017/18; Won 6 again & 2018/19; Won 1st 8-matches).
The confidence in Inter Milan’s camp has been sky high of late, reminiscence of a Jose Mourinho tutored Inter Milan side that won a tremble in the 2009/10 season. This new-found mood in Internationale’s camp can be attributed to new manager Antonio Conte, the Italian, a serial winner, 3 times Scudetto winner with Juventus and an EPL title with Chelsea, Inter Milan fans can be forgiven for having hope of winning the league this season.
It gets even easier for Inter Milan come this weekend matchday 6, with a trip to Sampdoria, a team that has lost 4 of her last 5 league fixtures and had lost both legs of the league fixtures to Inter Milan in the past 2 seasons. 15 maximum points, 10 goals scored and just 1 conceded, Inter Milan couldn’t ask for a better start, however, the journey is still a long way to go, with 33 league matches yet to be played.
Posted to Sports Dapp @Scorum, you’re welcome to be part of Scorum.
The race for a spot in the 2019 Audi MLS Cup reaches it’s antepenultimate, with the majority of both Eastern and Western Conference teams played 31 out of the 34 regular season matches. One of the glamourous franchise of the league might miss out of the playoff for the often time. The Los Angeles Galaxy had disappointedly missed the 2017 and 2018 playoffs respectively and could yet miss the 2019 playoff with tricky games left on their roster.
14 places(7 each from both conferences) are up for grabs in the postseason championship. All of the Eastern Conference’s current top 7 teams but the New England Revolution had secured the postseason status, as shown in the table above, leaving either of the Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact & the Orlando City SC with a realistic chance of justling out with the New England Revolution for the remaining single spot. The Western Conference, on the other hand, has 6 spots left to compete for, with Los Angeles FC the only side safely in the postseason championship. As much as 10 other clubs including the Los Angeles Galaxy are still vying for the 6 playoff spots as shown in the table below.
Five(5) times MLS Cup winner, Los Angeles Galaxy(2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 & 2014) was living dangerously close to missing the playoff, having dropped out of playoff spots following a string of poor results. However, the LAG has fought their way back into contention with back-to-back victories, which have now lifted them from 8th to 4th position on the Western Conference log table. The latest win, a 2-1 home win over Montreal Impact came at the back of a 7-2 win over Sporting Kansas City. Zlatan Ibrahimovic(31′) and Uriel Antuna(50′) combined to set up a goal apiece for each other in the 2-1 win while Lassi Lappalainen(48′) scored for Montreal Impact.
Having also scored a hat trick in the 7-2 win over Sporting Kansas, Ibrahimovic now has 27 league goals, just 2 behind league-leading scorer, Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela(29 goals). With 3 matches left on the regular-season roster, both Ibrahimovic and Vela alongside Atlanta United FC’s Josef Martinez(26 goals) chase the 31-goal single-season record set by Martinez himself last season.
Playoff seems to be within LAG’s grasp now, with 2 out of their last 3 fixtures against opponents outside the playoff places, bottom sides Houston Dynamo(10th) and Vancouver Whitecaps FC(12th), plus the seemingly tough tie against 5th place Real Salt Lake. The next 2 games for LAG are crucial to their playoff quest, back-to-back away games at Real Salt Lake and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, defeats in both games would make the last game against Houston Dynamo a must-win on home turf. However, if there is any team that can hurt LAG at their backyard, it would be the Houston Dynamo. It could be recall how the Houston based franchise stopped the LA Galaxy from making the playoff in the 2017 season, LA Galaxy was leading 2-0 at home but then got pegged back and stunned 2-3 at the Dignity Health Sports Park.
Ibrahimovic, after the 2-1 win over Montreal claimed to be the “MVP of the MVPs” but can he help LA Galaxy complete the revival and steer them to a 1st playoff spot in 3 seasons? There is only one way to find out.
Originally Posted to Sports Dapp @Scorum, you’re welcome to be part of Scorum.
Liverpool travels to the Stamford Bridge on Sunday to take on Chelsea, as Klopp’s army aims to continue on their blistering start to the season. Will their title march be frustrated by Frank Lampard’s tutored side? English Premier League matchday 6 offers an intriguing fixture on Super Sunday.
Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry is what many will agree to be a modern-day rivalry. The fixture between these 2 was just another EPL fixture until early 2000, and this can be merited to 2 of the most animated managers at the club’s dugout, Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez. These 2 managers have gone on to lay the foundation for what has become one of the biggest EPL fixtures.
The EPL is going into matchday 6, and some feel that whatever result comes out of this encounter, it may be inconsequential to the title race, however, as a reminder, Liverpool lost just 1 league tie last season but still missed out on the league title. So, every single point will be crucial to Liverpool’s course.
Chelsea (P5, W2, D2, L1 & Pts 8) Chelsea start to the season has been patchy, their 2 wins, 2 draws and a defeat has divided opinion on whether they can make the top 4 yet again under Lampard. Transfer ban had limited the Blues into putting trust in young academy graduates such as Tamny Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, and the young lads had so far justified their inclusion in the senior squad. The trio was responsible for all 11 league goals for Chelsea, with Tammy Abraham joint leading scorer with 7 goals. Chelsea fell to a disappointing home 0-1 defeat to Valencia in the UCL and will be raring to bounce back against Liverpool, the good news is that the combative midfielder Ngolo Kante has returned to the squad and may be involved against the Reds.
Liverpool (P5, W5, D0, L0 & Pts 15) Liverpool is on a 5-match winning run in the league, they have scored a staggering 15 goals and conceded just 4, however, they fell to a 0-2 defeat to Napoli in midweek’s Uefa Champions League tie, an uncharacteristic sloppiness in defence cost them the loss. The manner of the conceded goals raises few eyebrows concerning Liverpool’s impenetrable defence, are cracks beginning to show in the Van Dijk led wall of defence? or it’s just a one-off defensive lapse? It will be business as usual for Liverpool’s deadly front 3 of Firmino, Mane & Salah on Sunday.
H2H: Last 5 EPL Matches(Chelsea W1-D3-W1 Liverpool) Liverpool last league visit to the Bridge ended in a 1-1 draw, so were 3 out of the 5 league meetings. The last time Liverpool defeated Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge was in 2016 when Lovren and Henderson’s goal help the Reds to a 2-1 win, Diego Costa gave Chelsea a consolation goal.
Prediction >>Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool<<
If form is anything to reckon with in fixtures such as this, then Liverpool with the 100% league form has the edge. Chelsea might likely play deep and hit back on the break, however, it might still not be enough to keep Liverpool at bay. A draw will be a welcome result for Chelsea.
September 19, 2019 (updated September 19, 2019) Published by peman85
Inter Milan new manager Antonio Conte will on Saturday have a taste of the yearly Derby Della Madonnina or Derby di Milano(Milan Derby), as the Italian tactician aims to consolidate Inter’s top place in Serie A log table, in a keenly anticipated matchday 4 contest against city rival AC Milan.
One of the most popular derby in Serie A, AC-Inter clash will go a long way this season to see which of the rivals is battle-ready to break Juventus stronghold on the Scudetto. The last time Juventus would not beat either of AC & Inter to a domestic title was in the 2010/11 season when AC won the Scudetto and Inter won the Coppa Italia, it has been 8-drought seasons for the city rivals since then. There’s no better way to test each other’s resolves than against each other in an early-season fixture.
AC Milan began the season with a disappointing 0-1 loss at Udinese but have since bounced back with a back-to-back wins to sit 7th on log table, however, the Marco Giampaolo tutored side is finding goals hard to come by, as the likes of Krzysztof Piatek, Suso, Fabio Borini have all struggled in front of opposition goal. The Rossoneri will sure need to dig deep if they are to break down Inter Milan on Saturday.
INTER MILAN [P3, W3, D0, L0 & Pts 9]
Inter Milan has a title-winning manager in Antonio Conte, 3 times Scudetto winner with Juventus and 1 with Chelsea in the English League, Inter has a genuine chance of title push this season. They started the league on a promising note with 3 wins out of their 3 fixtures so far, scored 7 and conceded just 1. Romelu Lukaku(brought in during the summer window alongside ex-Manchester United teammate Alexi Sanchez) has come in handy with 2 goals, and will surely be crucial to Inter’s title push.
Inter had dominated the last 5 league fixtures over their city rival, the Nerazzurri had won 3 and drawn 2 over AC Milan. AC’s last league win over Inter was in January of 2016 when Alex, Carlos Bacca and Mbaye Niang condemned Inter to defeat. However, Inter completed a double over AC last season(3-2, 1-0) and has all it takes to repeat the feat this season.
AC Milan manager Giampaolo has been mostly deploying a 4-3-2-1 formation this season, Lucas Paquette & Suso playing just behind the centre forward Piatek. However, the battle will be in the midfield where AC’s midfield trio of Kessie, Biglia and Calhanoglu come up against Inter’s quartet of Asamoah, Brozovic, Barella & Candreva in a 3-4-2-1 Conte’s renowned formation. Inter’s usual suspect target man will be Lukaku.
>>>AC Milan 0-2 Inter Milan<<<
AC Milan lack of goals put them on the back seat against their rival who had notched 7 goals already, nonetheless, Derby matches are often time hard to predict correctly. It may as well ends in a score draw.
Time is running out for Derby County Manager Phillip Cocu as his reign at the elms of the club’s affair has taken a somewhat downward turn since the season’s opening win at Huddersfield. The Rams, on Friday night, were held to a 1-1 draw by fellow stragglers Cardiff City at the Pride Park Stadium. The draw means Derby have now failed to win in their last 6 championship matches, and are lingering in the bottom half of championship table with 7 points, just 4 places above the relegation spot(18th position).
Cocu’s task couldn’t be more straight forward, to return the Rams(who came agonizingly close to gaining promotion last season) back to the EPL, but after matchday 7, Cocu’s task seems to be a huge mountain to climb. Derby started the 2019/20 league season started quite well with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Huddersfield Town but followed it up with a disappointing back-to-back draws against Swansea City and Stoke City respectively. Coupled with the 2nd round exit from the EFL Cup(a 0-3 defeat to Nottingham Forest), Derby has gone on a 6-league-match-winless run, drawn 4 and lost 2. In a championship race where the trio of Swansea City, Charlton Athletic and West Brom are still unbeaten are setting the pace in the league, playing catch up wasn’t what Derby owner Mel Morris signed Cocu up for and might be growing thin on patience.
Bielik pulled on Cardiff goalscorer Glatzel, source
Unlike the poor showing in matchday 6 0-3 loss to Brentford in which Derby registered an absolute zero shot on target, they put up a better performance, dominating proceedings against Cardiff but weren’t clinical enough in front of the opposition goal. They registered 13 total shots but managed just 5 on target. The match sparked into life in the 6th minute of kick-off when Jack Marriott, Tom Huddlestone and Martyn Waghorn had their efforts blocked or saved in quick successions, however, former Cardiff defender Scott Malone was on hand to finally fire home from close range, to give the home side the lead. The lead lasted only 13 minutes as Cardiff drew level from the spot-kick after Robert Glatzel dusted himself up to convert from 12 yards. Derby huffed and puffed for a winner but was repeatedly saw their efforts either blocked by Cardiff defenders or saved by Alex Smithies in Cardiff’s goal. It finished 1-1 to the disappointment of Derby manager Cocu who felt his team was denied a blatant spot-kick when Martyn Waghorn was brought down in the box.
Phillip Cocu might just be hanging on to his job at the moment, he needs to focus his attention on his team’s poor finishing and not on the spot-kick the referee failed to give. His team has not been decisive enough in the opposition final 3rd, likewise, has not been clinical in front of the opposition goal, 7 goals in 7 matches are unapt of the Derby under Frank Lampard and even worse was the 10 goals conceded in those 7 matches. Seems like Lampard’s shoe is proving to be too big to fit Cocu.
It is hard to understand if the off the pitch crisis(Derby under evaluation for selling Pride Park Stadium to owner Mel Morris) is responsible for Derby’s underperformance, nevertheless, Cocu needs to put in a string of results to remain on the job. He understandably needs time but unfortunately, time is not what club owners have any more in modern football.
Lightning strikes twice at the US Open final as Americas Serena Williams loses her 2nd consecutive US Open final to tournament revelation and Canadian 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, Andreescu won in straight sets 6-3, 7-5 to stun not just Serena but the capacity crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday and lifts the US Open trophy in her very 1st US Open main draw appearance.
The rise of Andreescu to women tennis is swift, just a little over a year ago, Andreescu was ranked outside the top 200 in the world(WTA) and was ranked 152 at the start of the present calendar year, however, astonishing title-winning runs at the WTA Indian Wells Masters & Canadian Open has seen her stock risen on world stage, moving to 15th on the WTA rankings. Her latest feat will see her move to 5th in the world when the new rankings are released. Bianca Andreescu becomes the 1st Canadian man or woman to win a Grand Slam singles title, the youngest woman to win a Grand Slam title since Russian duo of Maria Sharapova(17yrs) and Svetlana Kuznetsova(19yrs) won the 2004 Wimbledon and US Open respectively. Andreescu also joined a few women on the list of tournament’s debutant to lift the trophy(Goolagong Cawley; 1971 Roland Garros, Virginia Wade; 1972 Aus Open, Barbara Jordan; 1979 Aus Open, Monica Seles; 1991 Aus Open.)
Contrasting performances for both players on the night, while Serena struggled to replicate the sorts of confidence and finesse she’d displayed all tournament, her opponent Andreescu, on the other hand, was brimming in confidence, despite all the jeers and cheers of the home crowd rooting for Serena. Andreescu got off to a dream start, breaking Serena’s serve in the very 1st game and held on to lead 2-0. Serena did pull back to 1-2 and then, saved 5 breakpoints to hold serve in game 7 but still trails Andreescu 3-4. By the end of the opening set, Serena had uncharacteristically made 14 unforced error and would eventually succumb to 3-6 1st-set loss to Andreescu.
Andreescu began the 2nd set with the same momentum as the 1st, racing to a 2 game lead. Serena immediately broke back but found herself trailing and fighting to stay on the court at 1-5. However, with the home fans constantly cheering her, she found her momentum, saved championship point to break Andreescu 2-5 and went on a 4 consecutive winning game to level the 2nd set at 5-5. Andreescu would not be denied of victory though, as she wrapped up he set 7-5 in a remarkable fashion.
Serena made a total of 33 unforced errors and 8 double faults on the night to her own undoing. Her quest for a record-equalling 24 Grand Slam titles will have to wait for another Grand Slam at least. It’s the 2nd consecutive Grand Slam final defeat for the American, having lost Wimbledon to Romania’s Simona Halep, and her 4th Grand Slam defeats since her 2018 Wimbledon loss to Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
Another sporting achievement for Canada in 2019(Toronto Raptors winning the NBA). Congratulations to Bianca Andreescu and to all Canadians.
America’s Serena Williams is one step away from going in the history book, the 37-year-old mother booked her place in the ongoing US Open final, her 10th US Open final and her 33rd Grand Slams’. If Serena emerges victorious at the Arthur Ashe Stadium come Saturday, She’ll equal Australia’s Margaret Court as only the 2 tennis players, male or female to amass 24 Grand Slam titles. However, standing in her way is the Canadian teenage sensation Bianca Andreescu, who is playing in her 1st ever Grand Slam final.
Serena Williams needs no introduction in world’s Lawn Tennis, only Margaret Court has more Grand Slam title(24) than the American(23), however, Serena is undoubtedly the best female tennis player of the Open era. Having won her 1st ever Grand Slam title at the US Open in 1999 as a teenager, she has gone on to win 5 further titles at Flushing Meadows and 23-Grand-Slam totals [Australian(7), Wimbledon(7), US(6) & French(3)]. The 37-year-old became a mother in September 2017(a year she won her last Grand Slam title at the Aus Open) and motherhood had understandably taken a toll on her, she had lost the 3 Grand Slam finals she’d played in, 2018 Wimbledon 3-6, 3-6 loss to German Angelique Keber, 2018 US Open ill-natured 2-6, 4-6 loss to Japan’s Naomi Osaka and last Wimbledon 2-6, 2-6 loss to Romania’s Simona Halep.
Serena Williams’ route to the final includes the round of 128 straight-set 6-1, 6-1 win over Russia’s Maria Sharapova, Serena then dropped her 1st and only set of the tournament so far in a round of 64’s 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 win over countrywoman 17-year-old Caty McNally. Serena followed up with consecutive straight-set wins in the round of 32 and 16, 6-3, 6-2 over Czech’s Karolina Muchova and 6-3, 6-4 over Croatia’s Petra Martic(22). A crushing quarterfinal 6-1, 6-0 win over China’s Wang Qiang(18) was soon followed with a semifinal 6-3, 6-1 win over Ukrainian’s Elina Svitolina(5).
Serena Williams now faces 15th seed Bianca Andreescu in the Saturday final, a potential banana peel for the 6 time US Open champion if I may add, as the teenager has proven all-tournament to be a worthy challenger, having brushed aside former world number 1 and 2018 Australian Open champion, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki earlier in her draws. Andreescu followed her quarterfinal 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Belgium’s Elise Mertens(25) with the semifinal 7(7)-(3)6, 7-5 victory over Swiss’ Belinda Bencic.
If Serena Williams could pull off a victory one Saturday, she’ll join an elite trio of LXM(League of Extra-ordinary Mothers) to have won the Grand Slam title after given birth, they include Australia’s Margaret Court who won all but Wimbledon Grand Slams in 1973, having giving birth to her 1st child in March 1972. Another Australian Evonne Goolagong won the 1978 Australian Open, just 7 months after the birth of her daughter(May 1977), and the 3rd mother on the list was Belgians Kim Clijsters, she won the US Open in 2009 after the birth of her child in 2008.
An eagerly anticipated final at Flushing Meadows come Saturday, hopefully, it will not end in an acrimonious nature of last year’s final( a furious Serena’s outburst against the Umpire Carlos Ramos in the game against Naomi Osaka).
The last Grand Slam of the tennis season, the US Open is at the quarterfinal stage and it may yet again see perennial rivals, world number 2 Rafael Nadal and world number 3 Roger Federer square it out against each other in the final barring no further upset in the tournament men’s draw. With the defending champion Novak Djokovic(1) out of the last 8 due to injury and 6 other top 10-seeded players Dominic Thiem(4), Alexander Zverev(6), Kei Nishikori(7), Stefanos Tsitsipas(8), Karen Khachanov(9) & Roberto Bautista(10) eliminated from the competition, leaving just Rafael Nadal(2), Roger Federer(3) & Damiil Medvedev(5) as the remaining top-ranked players of the last 8, it seems like an easy ride to the final for both Nadal and Federer.
R. Federer vs Grigor Dimitrov, QF
First into the quarterfinal was Federer, the Swiss maestro eased into the last 8 with a swift straight sets 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 win over Belgian’s David Goffin in the round of 16 earlier on Monday draws. On his way to the last 8, Federer was given scares in his 1st-2 matches, dropping the 1st set against an unseeded Sumit Nagal from India but recovering to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 & 6-4 in the round of 128 and then dropping the 1st set again in the round of 64 against another unseeded player, Bosnia and Herzegovina Damir Dzumhur but yet again rallied to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 & 6-4. Federer was however ruthless in his round of 32 straight sets 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 win over United Kingdom Dan Evans.
Federer has now qualified for his 56th Grand Slam quarterfinals, where he will now face the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the last 4 and a chance to win his 6th US Open title and a 21st Grand Slam title.
R. Nadal vs Diego Schwartzman, QF
Rafael Nadal also joined Federer in the last 8 after overcoming Croatia’s Marin Cilic in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 win. It was Nadal’s 1st set dropped in the tournament so far, having ease past the earlier rounds in straight sets, round of 128 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Australia’s John Millman, then, an easy passage into round of 32 after his round of 64 opponent, another Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis retired due to injury. And then, a straight-sets win 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 over South Korean’s Chung Hyeon to reach the round of 16.
Standing in Nadal’s way to the semis is the Argentine Diego Schwartzman(20). It’s Nadal’s 9th quarterfinal appearances at the US Open, his 40th quarterfinals in the Grand Slams, as the Spaniard aims to win his 4th US Open titles and 19th Grand Slam titles.
The remaining quarterfinal lineups include Damiil Medvedev(5) vs Stan Wawrinka(23) & Gael Monfils(13) vs Matteo Berrettini(24). Not underrating the other quarterfinalist, especially Stan Wawrinka who can trouble both Nadal and Federer, however, the odds still favour both the world number 2(Nadal) & 3(Federer). If Nadal-Federer materialises, it would be a dream showdown at the tournament. The last time both players met was at the semifinal of the last Grand Slam Wimbledon where Federer came out top in a 4-sets thriller. However, it’s Nadal who holds the highest win over Federer, winning 10 of their 14 Grand Slam clashes and 24 out of 40 overall clashes.
The Rome Derby popularly known in Italy as the Derby Della Capitale or Derby Della Capitolino is a ferocious intra-city rivalry between Roma and Lazio both of Rome. Many believe this Derby is the most fiercely contested in Italian football ahead of other famous derbies such as the Milan Derby( Derby Della Madonnina) and the Turin Derby( Derby Della Mole). The 90-year-old rivalry and bad blood between these 2 clubs is so fierce that in 1979 it recorded the 1st fatality in Italian football when a Lazio fan was struck and killed by a flare gun fired by a Roma fan. It also saw a league clash in 2004 abandoned just 4 minutes into the 2nd-half due to fans violence. Such was the nature of Derby Della Capitale, thankfully, the latest episode of the Rome derby wasn’t dramatic or fatal, rather, an entertaining 1 all draw.
With 5 Scudettos shared between Roma(3; 1941/42, 82/83 & 2000/01) and Lazio(2; 1973/74 & 1999/2000), they came into matchday 2 at the Stadio Olimpico, not with the unrealistic aim of winning the Scudetto but the chance to qualify for next season’s European competitions.
The last 5 league meetings between them have seen both teams with 2 wins and a draw including a 3-nil Lazio win and a 3-1 Roma win in the reverse fixtures of last season. Lazio the team in form, having started the season with a convincing 3 nil win at Sampdoria, Roma, on the other hand, were held at home 3 all by Genoa in their season opener.
Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi made just 1 change to the team that won 3 nil at Sampdoria, dropping Marco Parolo for Lucas in the holding midfield role, Roma manager Paulo Fonseca, like his counterpart, made just 1 change to his line up, Gianluca Mancini preferred at the heart of the defence to Juan Jesus.
Like in most derbies, form doesn’t really count, as Roma put their nose in front from the spot-kick in the 17th minute, Aleksander Kolarov with his 2nd goal of the season(having scored 1 in the 3 all draw against Genoa). Roma held unto the 1 nil lead going into the half-time break. However, Lazio levelled 13 minutes into the restart, Luiz Alberto teed up by Ciro Immobile in the 58th minutes. It ended 1 all at the Stadio Olimpico with both teams having 3 or more players in the referee’s disciplinary book.
The result didn’t tell the full story, it was a ferocious encounter as expected and the scoreline could have ended in a 3-3 or 4-4 draw as Lazio struck the post 4 times while Roma also hit the woodwork 2 times but in the end, it was a goal apiece.
It is matchday 2 in the Italia Serie A and we have an interesting inter-city rivalry on hands, Naples’ finest Napoli travels to Turin’s Heavyweight Juventus in what promises to be one of the weekend’s biggest fixtures. The early season clash will present Napoli an opportunity to test if their squad is ready to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto.
Juventus’ dominance in the Serie A is no more breaking news, as they seem to have made the Scudetto their own, 8 consecutive Serie A title summed up Juventus’ reign. In those 8 years, the only team that often time push Juventus for the title was Napoli, as she has come up as runners up 4 times, so, one can be forgiven for naming Napoli as one of the title challengers to Juventus yet again.
Juventus, despite an inconsistent preseason, began the season with a hard-fought, slim 1 nil victory at Parma, courtesy of a 1st-half strike from defender Giorgio Chiellini. Having dominated the proceedings against Parma, Juventus were limited to few scoring chances and will be raring to improve on that performance against rival Napoli, hopefully, manager Mauricio Sarri has shaken off pneumonia to be in Juventus dugout on Saturday.
Napoli, also had a not-too-good preseason but in her season opener had to come from a goal down, to edge an entertaining 3-4 scoreline at Fiorentina. However, they can not afford to be porous at the back against Cristiano Ronaldo lead Juventus attack, or else it might prove difficult to undo the damage.
Juventus vs Napoli, H2H;
Juventus W68, Napoli W31, 47 Draws. Both teams had played a total of 146 Serie A matches against each other, with Juventus having the upper hand with 68 wins, Napoli had 31 wins while 47 matches ended in a draw. Juventus’ 68 wins include victories in both return legs in last season’s fixtures(2-1 & 3-1).
Juventus: Home side will definitely rely on the finesse of Ronaldo in this tie, the Portuguese will be aiming to get into his groove having drawn blank against Parma. Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic will also offer threats in Napoli’s half. Also, new signings such as Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey and Matthijs De Ligt may be in for their 1st start.
Napoli: Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon will inflict trouble to any defence, the trio scored all 4 goals in Fiorentina win and will be raring to have a go at Juventus defence, plus they have a manager that has the technical know-how to hurt Juventus, Carlo Ancelotti.
>>>Juventus 2-0 Napoli<<< Losing at home is never an option for Juventus, they have made the Allianz Stadium a fortress over the past 8 seasons and are still hungry for more success. A draw will certainly be a step in the right direction for Napoli but it will be a tough task.
The Glasgow Derby, popularly known as the Old Firm Derby, is the famous clash between Glasgow and Scottish Premiership rivals Celtic and Rangers, the rivalry that began as far back as 1888 has gone on to be part and parcel of the rich Scottish culture. With 104 out of 122 Scottish league titles shared amongst Rangers(54) and Celtic(50), both teams are the undisputed shot callers in Scottish football. However, Celtic has dominated and won the league for the past 8th consecutive seasons, putting Rangers on the back seat since her return from relegation 4 seasons ago. Rangers’ quest to break Celtic stronghold on the league begins with the 1st of 3 league clashes against Celtic on Sunday.
RANGERS (W, W, W); Rangers began the season with the right momentum with a 100% start, winning all 3 league matches played, scoring 9 goals and conceded 2, and with a group stage of the Europa League secured, confidence is sky-high going into the derby come Sunday.
CELTIC ( W, W, W, ); Celtic, like her city rival, goes into Sunday’s derby full of confidence, having started the league with equally 100% win, 15 staggering goals scored and just 3 conceded in the 3 matches played. Celtic has also qualified for the group stage of Europa league and so can focus on league fixtures.
RANGERS vs CELTIC, H2H:
>>>RANGERS W2, CELTIC W7;<<<
Both teams had played 9 league matches against each other since Rangers returned to the SPL in 2016/17 season(having been removed from the league in 2012/13 for financial troubles), and it was Celtic with 6 consecutive league wins in both 2016/17 & 2017/18. Rangers brought in ex Liverpool International Steven Gerrard for his managerial debut in 2018/19, and he has since redeemed some pride unto Rangers, winning 2 out of the 3 Old Firm derbies of that season.
RANGERS‘s arguably best player is Alfredo Morelos, the Colombian has become 1 of Rangers important player over the year and will no doubt prove a torn in Celtic’s flesh. Jermaine Defoe is another player that can sure hurt Celtic if, given the nod on Sunday, other usual suspects include Scott Arfield and James Tavernier, both players scored in the 2-0 win last May.
CELTIC may be without their marauding left-back Kieran Tierney who had since joined Arsenal, but they’ve got threats all over the pitch, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard both scored in a 2-1 win over Rangers last season and will be raring to go again on Sunday. Leigh Griffiths and Bayo Youssouf have already begun the season with a couple of goals and can be called on by Celtic’s manager Neil Lennon.
>>Rangers 1-0 Celtic<<
Rangers won both fixtures 1-0, 2-0 respectively [at the Ibrox Stadium last season, losing only the away trip 1-2 at Celtic Park. I think Rangers will edge this fixture too.
August 26, 2019 (updated August 26, 2019) Published by peman85
Glasgow city rivals Celtic and Rangers are yet to drop point in the season’s 3 matches played, both on 100% winning start to the Scottish Premiership season, Celtic’s scoring spree to the season continues with another 3-1 over Hearts, while city neighbour Rangers, also recorded a 1 nil win at St Mirren. Both clubs are now poised and well pumped up going into coming weekend Old Firm Derby.
It is Steven Gerrard’s 2nd season at the elms of affairs at Ibrox and the ex England International cannot afford to slip up in the early sprint with Celtic as the season begins to gear up. They have begun the season on an impressive note, winning her 3rd straight league matches, having begun with an opening day fixture slim 2-1 win at Kilmarnock, they then stepped their game up with a 6-1 drubbing of Hibernian in matchday 2. The latest 1 nil win over St Mirren over the weekend made it 9 points, 8 goals scored and just a lone goal conceded by Rangers.
The victory over St Mirren was a hard-fought one, Rangers had to dig deep before they could break down a resolute St Mirren defence. St Mirren offered little in the Rangers’ half but could have gotten a chance to take the lead had the centre referee awarded them a spot-kick when Rangers’ Filip Helander looked to have brought down Celtic’s Jonathan Obika, instead, it was Rangers who rode their luck when left-back Borna Barisic curled in a delightful 59th minute free-kick to snatched all 3 points for Rangers. A relief for Gerrard whose team had a total of 15 shots but only 7 were on target.
Rangers defence had put in quite a performance so far, conceding just a goal in 3 matches is remarkable, however, the attack needs to be more clinical if they really want to pose a challenge to Celtic’s dominance.
Celtic might have been knocked out of the preliminary rounds of the UEFA Champions League by the Romania side CFR Cluj, they are however doing fine on the domestic front, qualifying for the next rounds of the Scottish League Cup alongside their impressive start to the premiership. They’ve now also recorded their 3rd straight win with a 3-1 win over Hearts at Celtic Park. Neil Lennon tutored side followed up their 7 nil thrashing of St Johnstone in the league opener with another 5-2 win at Motherwell, making it 9 points from the 3 matches, scoring a staggering 15 goals and conceded 3.
Celtic dominated their visitors in possession(61%) and in shots(9), as they made light work of Hearts. 2 goals from their Ivorian striker Vakoun Issouf Bayo(29′, 60′), one each in either half and a 3rd from Callum McGregor(54′), a sensational 25-yard strike completed the 1 sided tie. Connor Washington(81′) did get a late consolation for Hearts when he rebounded his saved spot-kick back into the net. It’s now 3 matches without a win for Hearts in the new season and 6 winless league matches stretching back to the 2018/19 season(W0, D1, L5).
Celtic may be scoring freely, however, they need to address their defence. They might be getting away with conceding goals on the domestic front but not in Europe, conceding 3 goals on home turf against CFR Cluj(3-4 agg), having drawn the 1st leg 1-1 away, ultimately ended their UCL campaign.
All road now leads to the Ibrox Stadium next weekend in a Super-Sunday clash between Rangers and City rival Celtic in what is known as the Old Firm Derby. The result might be inconsequential to the title race yet(35 matches still to play), however, whichever side wins get the bragging right.
Liverpool vs Arsenal fixture will always be a clash to look forward to, this fixture had over the years produced goals feast and hat-trick heroes more than any other fixtures could, from the historical Robbie Fowler 5-minute hat-trick in a 3-0 Liverpool win in 1994/95 season to a lanky Peter Crouch’s hat-trick in another 4-1 Liverpool win in the 2006/07 season. Arsenal also had hat-trick heroes in this fixture, they had the better of Liverpool in 2003/04 season when French striker Thierry Henry dazzled with his hat-trick goals in a 4-2 win. Then came the entertaining 4-4 draw in the 2008/09 season when the diminutive Arsenal striker Andrey Arshavin put 4 goals past Liverpool goalie. Last season’s tie saw Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino registered his hat-trick against Arsenal in a 5-1 win, amongst other memorable hat-tricks, perhaps another hat-trick might be on the card come Saturday.
It’s matchday 3 in the new season, and the 2 teams with the 100% winning start lock horns in Saturday’s late game. Arsenal travels to Anfield to take on a familiar foe Liverpool in what promises to be another entertaining encounter.
Two(2) wins in 2 matches, 6 goals scored and 2 conceded, Liverpool is on the right track to challenge Manchester City for the EPL title. They will, however, need their stand-in goalkeeper Adrien not to make a silly mistake such as he made against Southampton last weekend. Henderson might come back into the midfield alongside Wajnaldum and probably Fabinho, the frontline will definitely be unchanged from last weekend win in a 4-3-3 formation.
Two(2) wins in 2 matches, 3 goals scored and 1 conceded, Arsenal couldn’t have asked for a better start to a season, they have not had such start to a season in years, is it an omen of the better season ahead or otherwise? A slightly different team might be on the card from Unai Emery with Pepe likely to replace Reiss Nelson and Xhaka coming in for Joe Wilnock in a likely 4-2-3-1 formation.
H2H; Liverpool incredibly dominates this fixture, having the better of Arsenal in the last 8 meetings(W4, D4, L0), in fact, Liverpool’s last league defeat to Arsenal was some 4 seasons ago(2014/15) when the Brendan Rodgers tutored side lost 1-4 to the Gunners at the Emirate Stadium. Power had shifted since that league defeat, as Liverpool had made 4 further trips to the Emirate with 3 draws and a win. Arsenal, on the other hand, had fared poorly on her recent trips to the Anfield with just 1 draw and 3 losses, losing with a 2 or more goal margin(1-5, 0-4 & 1-3 respectively ).
KEY MEN; Liverpool restored her favourite lethal front 3(Salah, Mane & Firmino) in the league win over Southampton, having started the previous game against Norwich City without Sadio Mane, and the threat these 3 players offer at opposition half is relentless and ruthless. However, Liverpool is not all about attack, the Van Dijk led defence has matched the success of the attack, with the flying full-backs of Trent Alex-Arnold and Andrew Robertson offering immensely in the attack. They will no doubt miss the brilliance of their number 1 safe hands Alisson Becker who is still out injured. Arsenal surprised everyone with the addition of few new players in the last transfer window, one player has caught the eyes of many, loan signing, Ceballos, the Spaniard has proven to be a quality addition so far and would be vital for Arsenal’s season quest. There might be a 1st start for Arsenal record signing Nicholas Pepe, the Ivorians might join the usual suspect of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Aubameyang in a likewise exciting front 3. Arsenal weak link has always been the defence for years, and it is unclear whether the signing of David Luiz will offer any improvement to the defence, with Salah-Firmino-Mane prowling, it might be a long evening for Luiz led defence.
PREDICTION; The stats surely favours Liverpool, having scored a staggering 12 goal against the Gunners in the last 3 visits, however, stats are often time thrown out of the window in such fierce fixture. A draw will be a welcome result for Arsenal. Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
There were periods in the time past when the Italia Serie A honour, the Scudetto or Coppa Campioni d’Italia was dominated by a single club for years, from city rivals Inter(2005-2010) & AC Milan(1991-94) to Juventus(1930-35) & Torino(1942-49). In all of those dominant seasons, none of those clubs come close to the domestic successes achieved by this present Juventus, the present Old Ladies of Turin has reign supreme for the past 8 seasons, holding firm to the prestigious Serie A throne, She’ll stop at nothing to extend her reign for the 9th straight season.
The Bianconeri is not resting on her oars as she grows even stronger, the already untouchable squad that includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic, Giorgio Chiellini etc is being bolstered by the arrival of the midfield duo Aaron Ramsey(former Arsenal) and Adrien Rabiot(former PSG), and the talented teenage defender Mattijs de Ligt(former Ajax) amongst others. Even though Juventus had parted ways with their former manager Massimiliano Allegri(double domestic winner between 2015-18), and had since replaced him with former Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri(who has never won a domestic honour in Italy, however, won UEFA Europa League with Chelsea last season), it will still take some collapsing from Juventus before any of the Milan Clubs(Inter or AC), Napoli or other clubs can stop Juventus from winning a 9th successive Scudetto.
PARMA vs JUVENTUS, H2H;
Juventus begins her Scudetto defence on the road to Parma on Saturday, a team that has proven to be a tough nut to crack by the Old Ladies in recent fixtures, it took a Blaise Matuidi 2nd-half winner to separate the 2 in a hard-fought 2-1 win while the reverse fixture ended in an entertaining 3-3 draw. Further previous league fixtures saw both teams securing a win each(1-0 Parma, 7-0 Juve).
PARMA; Manager Roberto D’Aversa will be hoping his Ivory Coast import Gervinho reproduce such performance that saw him scored 2 goals in the 3 all draw with Juventus last season.
JUVENTUS; Maurizio Sarri, on the other hand, has a pool of stars to pick from, Cristiano Ronaldo, who also scored 2 goals in the 3-3 draw with Parma last season(and 21 league goals for Juve, their leading scorer) should be available for the opener, he could be playing in starting 11 with the new signings, talented box-to-box duo Aaron Ramseyand Adrien Rabiot who will provide him with plenty scoring chances.
Juventus yet to sort out the future of the Argentine Paulo Dybala, nevertheless, it is not expected to be a distraction or excuse for Juventus not to get all 3 points against Parma at the Stadio Ennio Tardini. I reckon a Juventus win.
It may be too early to be reading too much meaning to the English Championship table, however, some teams have got off to a good start. Leeds United and Swansea City occupy the 2 automatic promotion spots with 10 points each after 4 matches, while Fulham(9 pts), Sheffield Wednesday(9 pts), Charlton(8 pts) and West Bromwich Albion(8 pts) take the playoffs spots, the promotion race has begun in earnest.
Leeds United will be leaving no stone to unturn and ensure their promotion race doesn’t collapse like it did last season, Bielsa’s lads started last season swiftly but collapsed at the home stretch and eventually missed promotion agonizingly.
It’s matchday 4 in the EFL, and it’s 3 wins and a draw for Leeds United, they had to leave it late before getting the desired 3 points against Brentford on Wednesday night. New signing, Arsenal’s 20-year-old on-loan striker Eddie Nketiah tapped in from close range with 9 minutes of regulation time to play, having just came on 4 minutes earlier.
Leeds dominated their visitor Brentford but weren’t clinical in front of goal, they had a mere 11 total shots all night and just 4 on target. They will have to do better if they are to remain on top of the league table.
Swansea’s quest to gain promotion is going according to plan, a long way to go but they must keep grinding out results as they’ve done at the weekend at home to Preston North End(3-2 Swansea) and on Wednesday night.
Swansea started the game on the back foot, with their goalkeeper Freddy Woodman called to fine save in the early exchanges, however, they gain confidence and got into the lead through Bersant Celina in the 29th minute. The home side equalised in the 66th minute when Jordan Hugill nodded in, but the scoreline didn’t stay level for long, as Swansea regained the lead from the spot-kick when Borja Baston sent Joe Lumley in goal the wrong way. Sam Surridge made the game safe for Swansea with a headed goal in the 80th minute.
Swansea joined Leeds at the tabletop with same 10 points but with lesser goal difference.
Fulham will stop at nothing to gain an immediate return to the premier league, having dropped down at the end of last season. The Cottagers brought in Wolverhampton forward Ivan Cavaleiro on loan to bolster their attack, the Portuguese is surely paying dividends.
Fulham host Millwall at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night and it was a one-sided clash, not only did Fulham enjoyed 84 possession of the ball, but they also put 4 goals past their helpless visitor.
Cavaleiro opened the scoresheet with a fine effort in the 15th minute and then provided a cross for teammate Anthony Knockaert to nod in just after the half-hour mark. Fulham made it 3 from spot-kick in the 56th minute when Serbian Aleksandar Mitrovic dusted himself up to score from 12 yards. Cavaleiro completed his double in the 63rd minute when he rounded Millwall’s goalie Bartosz Bialkowski, to make it 4 nil on the night.
It’s 3 goals each from 4 matches for Fulham’s duo of Ivan Cavaleiro and Aleksandar Mitrovic. Millwall’s 3-match unbeaten run ends in a whitewash.
Sheffield Wednesday is keeping the pace with the frontrunner with just a point adrift of Leeds and Fulham, if they can maintain the pace remains to be seen, however, it’s an encouraging start for Sheffield.
A narrow 1 nil home win over Luton on Tuesday night help Sheffield to momentary top the EFL table. It was a game Luton dominated in possession and in shots but couldn’t make their shots count. Sheffield Wednesday fired lesser shots but fared better by getting a goal, which ultimately separated both teams. Kadeem Harris with the decisive goal in the 54th minute.
Luton still without a win after 4 matches and is just a place of the bottom of the league table.
Both Charlton Athletic and West Brom played out a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest and Reading respectively in their Wednesday fixtures and are still unbeaten after matchday 4 with 2 wins and 2 draws but it’s only good enough to earn them 8 points, 5th and 6th(the remaining playoff spots) position respectively on the log table.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said in his post-match comment on his team’s 2-all draw with Manchester City at the Etihad that he is in love with the VAR and for good and obvious reason, 2 major VAR decision come his way in just about 4 months, firstly, the thrilling UEFA Champions League 2nd-leg all-English quarterfinal clash at the Etihad last season and now, the English Premier League matchday 2, also at the Etihad.
A quick reminder of how it went down in that historical 2nd-leg UCL clash between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs. Spurs go into the 2nd-leg with a slim 1 nil advantage and had to avoid a 2-goal-margin defeat. However, it looked like they would fail in their quest when they went down to a Raheem Sterling 4th minute goal, they kept their nerves and fought back to a quick-fired Son Heung-Min’ double, to take a 2-1 lead. City well aware of the challenge, regained a 4-3 lead and needing one(1) more goal, Raheem Sterling scored what looked like the clincher in the injury time, but much to their heartbreak that put City manager Pep Guardiola on his knee with his head in his hands, the goal was disallowed by VAR due to Sergio Aguero’s offside run in the buildup to Sterling’s goal, ouch! Isn’t it?
Fast forward 4 months later, in an EPL week 2 fixture where Tottenham took on Manchester City again at the Etihad, again it was Spurs boss Pochetino having the last laugh. Like the April clash, City took the lead through that man again, Raheem Sterling(he’s sure getting beneath Spurs skin these days), however, the lead only lasted 3 minutes as Spurs equalised through Erik Lamela in the 23rd minute. City regained the lead in the 35th minute through Sergio Aguero, as the Argentine put away Kevin De Bruyne’s cross, but again City got pegged back by Spurs through Lucas Moura(56′) who just got substituted onto the pitch seconds earlier. Deja Vu as City thought they won it late in the injury time when Gabriel Jesus curled into the bottom corner, however, VAR disagreed as City’s Aymeric Laporte was adjudged to have handled the ball in the buildup to Jesus’ goal. 2 all it finished at the Etihad much to the disappointment of the Citizens who felt Laporte should have been awarded a spot-kick earlier in the game when Spur’s Davison Sanchez pulled him down in the box(but VAR turned a blind eye).
I am in love with VAR… Sometimes you get the benefit like today or in the champions league…-an elated Pochettino says.
I just hope he won’t turn his back on his love for VAR when decisions don’t come in his favour in the nearest future.
FC Barcelona began her Spanish Primera title defence on a disappointing note, after going down 0-1 to Athletic Bilbao in the 1st match of the Spanish La Liga, a spectacular Aritz Aduriz’s scissors’ kick late in the game condemned the Blaugrana to their 1st opening-fixture defeat since the 2008 0-1 loss to Numancia, bringing a 10-straight opening fixture to win to an end.
Barcelona is still locked in the summer transfer window tug-of-war with PSG over the signing of their ex-forward Neymar Jnr and with rumours of a compromise between the 2 clubs still proving difficult to reach, the saga/drama is set to go to the wire as the European transfer window edges closer to it’s the final day. With so much attention on the transfer window, some quarters believe it’s a distraction to the team going into the Bilbao opener, and so it proved to be.
Barcelona went into the match without their mercurial talisman Leo Messi due to a reported injury, and so, the onus falls on new signings like Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong to show their qualities, however, it wasn’t a debut both players would have hoped for. The Blaugrana as expected enjoyed plenty of the ball possession but were worryingly reduced to a single shot on target in the 1st half(2 in the entire regulation time) when substitute and Barca’s only lively player on the night Rafinha drew a finger-tip save from Bilbao’s goalkeeper Unai Simon in the 44th minute. Bilbao on the other hand, kept Ter Stegen in Barca’s goal busy in the half, calling the shot-stopper to some fine saves[Inaki Williams (7′), (15′), Unai Lopez(31′) & Raul Garcia(36′)] to keep the scoreline at goalless before the break.
The 2nd half was same old Barcelona moving the ball around with no real threat to Bilbao and just when it seemed like the match was going to end in a goalless statement, then came a moment of sheer brilliance from substitute and Bilbao’s old warhorse Aritz Aduriz, the 38-year-old Spaniard was barely on the pitch when he met teammate Ander Capa’s ambitious cross into the box with a delightful overhead kick(such that Messi & Ronaldo would be proud of) beyond a helpless Ter Stegen in the 89th minute.
Athletic Bilbao is now undefeated to Barca in 3 league games(W, D, D). Barcelona, on the other hand, once again proved that they are incomplete without a certain Argentine Leo Messi. They might feel hard done by with the early injury to Luiz Suarez(37′), however, Suarez replacement did remarkably well, arguably was Barcelona’s best player on the night.
BAYERN MUNICH 2-2 HERTHA BERLIN:
Also on Friday night, across Europe was the commencement of the German Bundesliga and it was kicked started by the reigning champion Bayern Munich versus Hertha Berlin at the historical Allianz Arena Stadium. Bayern needed a 2nd-half spot-kick to rescue a point at home in their league opener.
Bayern spent much of the summer transfer window chasing Manchester City Leroy Sane but they were consistently rebuffed by the Citizens. Bayern then shifted their attention to an unsettled Brazilian, Barcelona’s Phillipe Coutinho which despite the green light, might turn out to be a long shot too as it’s reported that Barcelona is including the Brazilian in a potential deal that would see 2 Brazilians switch clubs(Neymar the other).
Bayern was favoured to come out of this clash with Hertha Berlin victorious, an opponent they defeated in both home and away league fixture last season. They got a deserved lead through the usual suspect, Robert Lewandowski in the 24th minute and it seemed like the flood gate would open afterwards with Bayern dictating the proceedings, however, Hertha Berlin got other ideals, they struck in 2-quick minutes, Dodi Lukebakio’s deflected shot in the 36th minute and Marko Grujic’s stunner in the 38th minute.
The Bavarian, however, were relentless with their attack and got a chance to draw level when that man again, Lewandowski drew a foul from Marco Grujic in the area and was confirmed by VAR, Lewandowski dusted himself up to convert from 12 yards, to save the champion’s blushes( his double for the night).
With loanee James Rodriguez returned to his parent club Real Madrid, the Bavarian is lurking the transfer window for a playmaker, and it is uncertain if they can truly pull off a Phillipe Coutinho loan deal.
The good thing about not getting an opening day result is that it will give the club concerned an opportunity to perform a ‘forensic’ check on their team and make the necessary transfer business before the window closes, Barcelona and Bayern still have the chance to do so.
Real Madrid begins the new La Liga season with a tricky tie away at Celta Vigo, the Galacticos will be aiming to do better this season having finished last season on a disappointing note, an unacceptable 3rd for the 2nd year running, 19 whooping points behind champion, it was a difficult season that followed the unceremonial departure of their record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo and 3-time UCL winning manager Zinedine Zidane. The team struggled and laboured without Ronaldo and Zidane at the dugout, and it was expected that an immediate team rebuilding would begin.
In-come big-name signings that include long- coveted Belgian Eden Hazard, Serbian Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy and a few more, and with the European transfer window still open until September 2, fillers around the world claim that there are still more signing on the horizon, with the likes of Neymar Jnr, Ajax youngster Van De Beek still can make the switch over, boosted with the return of former manager Zinedine Zidane, glory days awaits.
CELTA VIGO vs REAL MADRID: H2H;
Real begin the season title challenge with a trip to the Estadio Balaidos, Celta Vigo, a ground they know too well and had enjoyed recent successes over the past 3 seasons, with 2 La Liga wins and a draw, Real’s last 5 clashes with Celta Vigo stands at WWWWD.
Iago Aspas: the 32-year-old Spaniard is mainly Celta Vigo’s danger man having sold out strike partner Maximiliano Gomez, Aspas’ 20 league goals last season was 4th o the goal chat behind Messi(36), Karim Benzema(21) and Luiz Suarez(21) respectively, Aspas now has new offensive support in the shape of former Barcelona forward, Denis Suarez, both can form a dangerous frontline for Celta Vigo.
Karim Benzema; one of the standout Real player last season, stepping up when it mattered, the French striker beat the 20-goal mark(P36-G21-A6-S85) in La Liga for the 1st time since he scored 24 goals in 2015/16 season. It gets even better for Benzema and Real with the acquisition of Eden Hazard who can sure create scoring chances. Others include new signing Lukas Jovic and the usual suspects Vinicius Jnr, Marcus Asensio Luka Modric, Gareth Bale(if he stays) etc.
Real’s poor preseason(DWWLLDL) should not be an excuse for not starting the league with a win,
Spanish La Liga is back as Atletico Madrid begins title challenge on Sunday against Getafe at home ground. Diego Simeone will be aiming to win the league and dethrone Barcelona.
Atletico Madrid finished off La Liga season in 2nd place, some clear 8 points adrift of the champion Barcelona, a back-to-back 2nd place finish for Diego Simeone men. They boast of the meanest defence in the league, conceding only 29 league goals, 7 goals fewer than the champion Barcelona(if only their attack could match the defence success), Nevertheless, it was an ageing backline that includes Diego Godin, Juanfran, Filipe Luiz and so on, and the manager had since moved swiftly to bolster his defence by replacing the tired & weak legs.
Atletico was ruthless in transfer business, breaking their transfer record for the much sort after Portuguese teenage sensation Joao Felix for a reported £120M, bringing their summer spending to the excess of £242M. Remarkably, their spending so far is within budget, as they had profited from player sales in excess of £311M( the most from player sales in Europe). They are more than ready for their season’s opener at home to Getafe on Sunday.
ATLETICO vs GETAFE: H2H ;
Atletico has enjoyed a recent good run against her visitor Getafe, winning both La Liga return fixtures for the past 2 seasons(G4, W4), the odds sure favours Atletico to get a straight win again.
NEW SIGNINGS & ATTACKING THREATS;
Joao Felix, Kieran Tripper and some of Atletico new signings, source
Joao Felix; the young lad came into Atletico with a lot of potentials and pressure, having commanded such huge fee(£120M), but the 19-year-old had shown maturity and glimpse of his qualities in preseason’s victories(including the win over Cristiano Ronaldo-led Juventus). With the young lad pulling the strings behind the usual suspects Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata, Angel Correa and a host of others, there should be no shortage of goals for Atletico.
Jorge Molina, Jamie Mata and Angel Rodriguez are all decent strikers for Getafe, they shifted in combined league goals of 36 last season and can cause havoc if afforded to much space.
Atletico had a smooth and encouraging preseason, drawing just 1 of their tuneup matches( WWWWWD) and if that winning momentum can be carried over to the league opener, they should have a comfortable home win,
The Spanish Premera League will commence on Friday with the Champions Barcelona travelling to San Mames to take on Athletic Bilbao in the season’s opening weekend fixtures. La Liga fans couldn’t ask for a better curtain-raiser than the champion kicking off the season.
Barcelona spends almost the entirety of the preseason and summer transfer window trying to resign their former forward and PSG ace Neymar Jnr, the Catalan giant has been locked in the transaction table with the Parisian club PSG, who wants to recoup the £200M they paid for the Brazilian 2 seasons ago. If Barcelona can pull off Neymar resigning, it will add to an already formidable frontline that also includes new mega signings Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong( who has been likening to be a blend of Sergio Busquet and ex-Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez).
Athletic Bilbao, on the other hand, may have not brought in a household signing, however, their best piece of business was the tying down of the much sought after player Inaki Williams. The Spaniard has been tied down to a long-tern 9 years contract, thereby ending interest from European powerhouses such as Manchester United and others.
Top on Barcelona’s wishlist is no doubt the return to European glory, the Catalan club has endured a turbulent and embarrassing past 4 seasons in which they’ve witnessed arch-rival Real Madrid won 3 of the last 4 UEFA Champions League(2015/16-17/18), while Barca also collapsed to a humiliating semifinal defeat to eventual champion Liverpool last season. Barcelona has however been on the front foot in domestic campaigns, winning 4 out of the last 5 La Liga & Copa Del Rey, including a successful defence of the La Liga last season.
Head-To-Head: Athletic Bilbao-Barcelona;
Although the Rojiblancos as Bilbao are referred to as has proven to be a torn in Barcelona’s flesh in the past, like both return legs of the Liga fixtures last season where they played out 1-1 & 0-0 scoreline respectively, the Blaugrana(Barcelona) still poses a better record of 3 Liga wins in 5(and 2 draws), and are favoured to win this clash.
Athletic Bilbao Attacking Threats:
Inaki Williams; arguably Bilbao’s best player, the Spaniard last season posed a decent threat of 38-13-4-75(Games-Goals-Assists-Shots). He will be raring to better those stats this season. Others include midfielder Raul Garcia(33-9-3-81), forward Iker Muniain(34-7-4-25)…
Barcelona Attacking Threats:
Leo Messi; a lot have been said concerning Barcelona’s driving force, Leo Messi, the club tends to struggle without the mercurial Argentine. Messi’s contribution to Barca over the years is phenomenal, he’s not just scoring the goals, he made goals for his teammates too, Messi top both the goals and assists chat in La Liga last season(34-36-12-141), his 6th La Liga Golden booth. His partner in crime wasn’t left out, Luiz Suarez’s last season record stood at 33-21-6-93. Other attacking threat will definitely come from newly acquired French forward Antoine Griezmann(37-15-9-86). By the close of the transfer window on September 2, Barcelona’s front 4 could be as shown above; Messi, Neymar, Griezmann & Suarez, how all of them will fit into the starting 11 remains to be seen
With so much firepower within the Barcelona ranks, one can not be faulted for opting for a Barcelona win, Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Barcelona.
So, Folks, sit back and enjoy the Spanish Premera League. Thank you all.
It’s bare a weekly since ex-England International and D.C.United import Wayne Rooney put pen to paper with English Championship club side Derby County in a player-coach capacity come Winter Transfer Window(January) and while Rooney’s singing by Derby has been seen by some as the best ever signing in the championship, some others feel Rooney’s iconic status with the D.C club may have been hampered with his impending departure with 2-&-½ years left on his contract with D.C.United. Nevertheless, matters on the pitch saw D.C.United recorded a hard-fought win over fierce rival LA Galaxy and with Wayne Rooney not even on the bench(due to respiratory infection), safe to say DCU are well equipped for life after Rooney.
Clashes between these 2 have always been 1 to behold, the last 2 league clashes between them had both ended in a 2 all draw and a goalless draw respectively. Both teams were struggling for form and while LAG was coming from a back-to-back league defeats and had recorded just 2 league win in their last 5, DCU had also not enjoyed favourable results, they were winless in their last 3 league matches and recorded just 1 win in last 5 league matches.
With no Rooney in their matchday squad, DCU hoped for a result against an Ibrahimovic-led LAG and the put up a combative performance to earn a hard-fought victory. They(DCU) edged into the lead just past midway through 1st-half, a swift counter-attack was finished off brilliantly by midfielder Paul Arriola(28′) but a 2nd-half goal by Fabio Alvarez brought LAG to level terms. LAG enjoyed plenty of the ball possession and had 29 shots in total as shown in stats above but had most of their shots been block by DCU players who were throwing bodies on the line. With about a quarter of an hour left to be played, DCU found their winning goal when Lucas Rodriguez fired home in the 73rd minute and condemned LAG to her 4th straight defeats on the road.
D.C.United holding on tight to a playoff spot in 3rd position in the Eastern Conference standings with 39 points after 26 games played, while LA Galaxy is living dangerously in 5th position on the Western Conference standings with 37 points from 24 games played.
While LAG is struggling with form and results, city rival LAFC is cruising and comfortably on top of the Western Conference standings with a whopping 16 points between them and the nearest rival Seattle Sounders FC.
On Sunday night, Carlos Vela scored a goal and assisted 2 as his side ran over New York Red Bulls 4-2 in an entertaining 6 goals thriller. The goals started raining down in the 23rd minute when Jordan Harvey nodded home a Vela cross and 2 minutes later Latif Blessing made it 2 nil in favour of the home side LAFC. However, with all the attacking quality possessed by LAFC, their defence couldn’t match it and for the often time, they let the team down by conceding 2 1st-half late goals, Cristian Casseres Jr.(42′) and Brian White(45′) levelled for the visitors.
Thank goodness LAFC have Vela in their ranks and he is firing on all cylinders, the Mexican converted a 61st-minute spot-kick, his 23rd goal of the season(still the league-leading scorer) and then lofted a free-kick for Eddie Segura to nod in 11 minutes later, 4-2 it ended at the Banc of California, Los Angeles.
Stats reveal that LAFC now boosts of the best record in the league with 17 wins, 3 losses and 4 draws(including an unbeaten home record of 10 wins and a draw), with +40 goal difference, having scored 65 goals and conceded 25, seems the playoffs is all set and guaranteed.
A defeat in the opening fixtures of the premier league may sound and look demoralizing but it is not as damaging, considering the marathon nature of the league. Opening day defeat in most cases serve as a reality check for the defeated teams, so, Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa who are all returning to the EPL after some years of absence will have a bit of belief despite the disappointing results in their season’s openers. A brief review of how these trio’s opened their EPL accounts over the weekend.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS 3-1 ASTON VILLA:
Saturday late game presents an opportunity for one of the 3 promoted teams Aston Villa to get a result in the season’s opening fixture, however, it proved to be a difficult trip to the White Hart Lane, against last season’s UCL finalist Tottenham Hotspurs, despite starting the brightest.
With money available for spending having won the playoffs, Villa was 1 of the big spenders of the concluded summer transfer window, spending as much as £130M to bring in about a dozen new faces to bolster their squad. Spurs dominated the recent fixtures between these 2, winning 4 out of the last 5, however, Villa took a surprise lead in the 9th minute, midfielder John McGinn slotted past Hugo Lloris and it looked like Villa was going to see out the entirety of the match with the lone goal, but they conceded 3 late goals, Spurs new signing Tanguy Ndombele(73′) equalised with a long ranger, Harry Kane completed his double with quick fired goals(his 1st in Spurs new stadium).
So, Aston Villa’s 1st EPL game in 3 seasons ended with a defeat but they can regroup with a more fancied home tie against Bournemouth come next round of fixtures.
Liverpool 4-1 NORWICH CITY:
Norwich City knew they have a mountain to climb when they visit the reigning UCL champion Liverpool at Anfield for their season’s opener, they are playing premier league football for the 1st time since their last in the 205/16 when they got relegated and Liverpool offers a stern test of character for the Canaries.
However, Liverpool test proved to be too much as Norwich City went down as early as the 7th minute of kick-off via an unfortunate own-goal, Liverpool’s Divock Origi’s cross into the box was miskicked into own net by Grant Hanley. Mo Salah(19′), Van Dijk(28′) and Divock Origi added to the tally, to take a half-time 4 nil lead. With the result seemingly secured, Liverpool stepped off the pace at the restart, giving Norwich a chance to get a consolation goal in the 64th minute, Norwich top striker Teemu Pukki cooly beat substitute goalie Adrian.
The Canaries will try again in the next match when they host Newcastle United, a result against Steve Bruce side is much more within reach for Norwich City.
On a rather hilarious but embarrassing note, a pitch invader managed to make it unto the pitch but thank goodness the hard-tackling stewards subdued him, some crazy a.. fan right there.
BOURNEMOUTH 1-1 SHEFFIELD UNITED:
The blades as Sheffield United are popularly called are also 1 of premier league newcomers, it’s 12 seasons since they played in EPL and they began their campaign on the road just like fellow returned(Norwich & Aston Villa), United played Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
Eddie Howe’s team is a shadow of the team it was some 2 seasons ago and again showed weakness against Sheffield United. The 1st half ended in a goalless draw much to the frustration of the home fans, however, an improved 2nd half performance saw Bournemouth took the lead in the 62nd minute when defender Chris Mepham fired home after Sheffield failed to clear their line. However, when it seemed like the home side will get the maximum point, Sheffield equalised on the 88th minute through Billy Sharp to sent the visiting fans into wild jubilation.
Sheffield will go into next home tie against Crystal Palace with a high spirit. Not a bad opening weekend result for the Blades.
Most of these teams deployed a defensive approach against there opponent aiming to hit back on the break, that didn’t quite work out according to plans, Aston Villa could have successfully defended the 1 nil lead had it been an EFL match, she could not hold Spurs all 90 minutes. However, they all did prove to have worthy strikers as Billy Sharp and Teemu Pukki( both made EFL team of last season) found the back of the net.
The Curtain is finally raised on the much-awaited English Premier League season and it started with an exciting match at Anfield where Liverpool begins her 2019/20 title challenge with a comfortable 4-1 win over Norwich City on Friday, to set the tone for what looks to be another intriguing campaign, 4 1st-half goals by the Reds quickly clear any hope of a matchday 1 slip-off by the reigning UEFA Champions League Champion.
Liverpool put the clash to rest as quickly as the 42nd minutes of the 1st-half, an own goal from Norwich City Grant Hanley(7 min), Mo Salah(19 min), Virgil Van Dijk(28 min) and Divock Origi(42 min) completed the riot. Norwich top shot Teemu Pukki did show his finesse in front goal by slotting the ball past substitute Liverpool goalie Adrian, but it was just a consolation goal. The Reds eased off at the restart and scored no further goals having been comfortably in control of proceedings, clearly Wednesday night’s UEFA Super Cup clash against league rival Chelsea FC in the sight.
Liverpool has almost everything going their way at the moment, OPTA’s stats reveal that Jurgen Klopp’s Red Army has now scored 15 goals in their last 4 opening weekend EPL fixtures, a run that started back in 2016/17 4-3 win over Arsenal on the opening day clash( 2017/18 3-3 Watford, 2018/19 3-0 West Ham). Further stats show that Liverpool has now won their last 10 EPL matches and has extended their unbeaten home run to 41-straight EPL matches.
Mo Salah impression time at Anfield is not about to end as OPTA stats show that the Egyptian has now scored in Liverpool’s last 3 opening day matches( scoring against Norwich, West Ham and Watford respectively). His teammate Trent Alexander Arnold wasn’t left out of the OPTA’s stats sheet, as he has now assisted a goal at least in his last 5 EPL matches.
Divock Origi would not be out-shine by Salah and Alexander-Arnold as he bagged the Man-of-the-match award. The Belgian continue from where he left it at the Semi-final UCL win over Barcelona last season with another impressive display, his cross into Norwich box forced an own-goal from Grant Hanley, while he scored a goal and assisted another. He’s proven to be an adequate cover for Liverpool front 3(Salah, Mane & Firmino).
Liverpool evening was however dented with a calf injury to their reliable shot-stopper Alisson Becker, the Brazilian was instrumental for his team’s title charge last season starting all 38 league games. It is unclear whether 2nd choice keeper Adrian can perform at the same level at Alisson in coming-Liverpool fixtures starting with had Super Cup on Wednesday.
Baptism of fire for Norwich City as they begin their EPL campaign with a heavy defeat. They remain winless against Liverpool in 13 league matches(W0-D2-L11). However, they showed a glimpse of what they can do with a goal against a mean Liverpool defence.
Three(3) months absence from the English Premier League seemed like forever but thank goodness, the long wait is over as the bread and butter of the EPL returns on Friday night and what a historical place to start. EFL champion and recently promoted club side Norwich City travelled to the Anfield to take on last season’s EPL nearly champion Liverpool in what can be described as a mismatch on paper, however, football has shown and proven to followers time and again that there is no such word as a mismatch in the modern game.
Home Team; Liverpool FC:
Liverpool went agonizingly close to winning the 2018/19 EPL but missed out with just a point to champion Manchester City, however, the heartbreak was swiftly swept under the carpet with the capture of the biggest price of all; the UEFA Champions League. Nevertheless, the whole world is anxiously waiting to see how Liverpool will respond to the new season’s challenges and if they will be able to push all the way for the title once again.
They start their campaign with a seemingly simple fixture on home turf against Norwich City, as the bookmakers expect nothing short of the 3 maximum points for the home side. With 1 more day in the transfer window, Liverpool is yet to bring in any big-name signing as Manager Jurgen Klopp submitted to the club’s unwillingness to do so having spent big in the past 2 seasons where they brought in Van Dijk, Naby Keita, Alisson Baker etc, nevertheless, Klopp has his full squad at his disposal and with no player on the treatment table, and so has no reason to be worried ahead of Friday kick-off has his team still possess tremendous firepower to take down Norwich City.
Away Team; Norwich City:
Norwich City can place no foot wrong at the moment, the Canaries as they are popularly called had a remarkable EFL run where they mostly stay at the top spot all season and eventually won it ahead of Sheffield United and Leeds United, and earned an automatic return to the English Premier League after 3 season’s absence.
A lot of accolades had been showered on Norwich German head coach Daniel Farke(who became the club’s 1st foreign head coach in their 114 historic years) on how he sets up his team with a pacey and possessive brand of football, and spare heading Norwich’s attack is the Finland international Teemu Pukki who scored 29 goals en route promotion. However, Norwich will be desperate to avoid immediate relegation(like they got relegated in 2015/16 season having gained promotion in the season before), following in footsteps of Fulham and Cardiff City.
Head-To-Head; Liverpool vs Norwich City:
Liverpool has had a poor preseason warmup matches, having lost 4(including last weekend English FA community shield defeat to Manchester City), drew 1 and won just 1 of their last 6 warmup matches. Norwich, on the other hand, fared better with her tuneup games, won 3, lost 2 and drew 1. However, like it is always the case, preseason matches are just to put the players n shape and thus, the results offer no consequences on the league results.
One(1) thing that however plays a psychological effect on teams is the head-to-head stats. The last time both teams met in an EPL match was in January 2016, Norwich City’s last campaign in top-flight football before relegation, and it was a goal feast at Carrow Road which Liverpool edged 5-4, and they(Liverpool) also holds the advantage in the last 5 clashes winning 4 and drawing just 1.
It is not quite certain if Liverpool’s Senegalese ace Sadio Mane will take any part in the match against Norwich having missed the community shield clash due to an extended holiday, nonetheless, their 2nd-half display against Manchester City showed that they still are an unstoppable force. However, with Van Dijk been dribbled past by a player(Gabriel Jesus) for the 1st time in 65 matches, Norwich Teemu Pukki will fancy his chances against Liverpool defence.
English Premier League new season opening-round clashes have an exciting matchup on Super Sunday, as top 4 hopeful Arsenal travels to take on Newcastle United at St James’ Park. Clashes between these 2 have not only brought memorable games to mind but also jaw-dropping goals, from Alan Shearer’s 1st ever goal at Highbury(the then home of Arsenal FC) in 2001 to Dennis Bergkamp’s delightful roulette goal in 2002 and then the late Cheick Tiote’s left-footed screamer to level score at 4 all in 2011, Newcastle-Arsenal is a clash to always look forward too, and Super Sunday present another EPL showdown.
HOST; NEWCASTLE UNITED:
Popularly known as the Magpies, Newcastle easily fit into the EPL boogie teams’ category as they can be a thorn in the flesh of the EPL big boys, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City will attest to that. Unfortunately, despite owner Mike Ashley’s investment in the team, they have not been able to replicate the prowess and feat of the mid-90s team(that include David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer etc) that came 2nd in the league in 1995/96 & 96/97 seasons consecutively.
Newcastle has had a busy summer transfer window so far, starting with the change of manager after Steve Bruce replaced Rafael Benitez, the Magpies has since gone on to bring in a Markie signing in the shape of the £40M-rated-Brazilian striker Joelinton, a statement of intent by Newcastle.
VISITOR; ARSENAL FC:
Arsenal is now in the 2nd season of post-Wenger era under Unai Emery, though the Spaniard failed to qualified the team for the UEFA Champions League in a rather disappointing manner having had the chance to do so, he can be cut some slack for even trying and being in the run-in in the 1st place as nobody gave Arsenal the chance.
Arsenal’s post and pre season began with calls from several quarters advising the club and manager to rebuild a frailty defence which has been in decline since the end of the famous invisible backline that includes Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Ashley Cole, Mayer Lauren etc. Incredibly, the Gunners surprised her fans and neutrals with the acquisition of Nicolas Pepe in reported world-record fees of about £72M, club breaking her transfer record(having initially claimed to have a limited budget of about £45M) on a winger rather than a much-needed defender created some divided opinion amongst fans and neutrals alike. However, with the window still open for some few hours, that could well change with the imminent arrival of left-back Kierran Tierney and Center-back David Luiz(not the markie defender hoping for but much betterer than Arsenal”s current defenders).
HEAD-TO-HEAD; NEWCASTLE VS ARSENAL:
Arsenal did a double over their host Newcastle last season, winning 2-1 & 2-0 respectively and had also won 4 of the last 5 premier league meetings(Newcastle W1-W4 Arsenal), safe to say Arsenal has the psychological advantage over Newcastle but it doesn’t always work according to scripts.
Arsenal’s opening day results don’t leave to much to be admired, with just 3 wins in their last 10 opening round fixtures(W3 L4 D3) dated back to 2009 season opener, Newcastle will be relishing their chances come Sunday. With the arrival of new signings, it’s uncertain which kind of lineup and tactics both managers will put on matchday, it looks like Arsenal might just edge it,
Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal
I hope will all see an exciting match between these 2 on Sunday. Thank you all.
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Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, and Derby County all made the championship playoffs last season but fell by the roadside to eventual winner Aston Villa. All 3 aiming to put the heartbreak aside began the new season on a high, with Leeds and West Brom recording away wins. Some might say it’s too early to read too much meaning into the wins, as the league is some long way from concluding, there is no better way to show their intent than a good win on the road.
Nottingham Forest 1-3 West Brom:
Having gone so close to gaining immediate promotion back into the EPL last season(missed out by a semi-final playoff loss to Aston Villa), The Baggies as West Brom are popularly called are aiming to go one better this term, and they started with some statement. They set the ball rolling at The City Ground, home of Nottingham Forest with a win. The home team isn’t a pushover though, they also narrowly missed out on a playoff spot, having finished last season, just 3 places out of the playoff spots(9th).
Nottingham Forest didn’t take too long before they made home support count, Right back Matty Cash finished off his marauding run into the opposition box with a right-footed shot after a fine team play and delightful flick from Albert Adomah. However, as they did in more than half of their matches(27 matches) last season, West Brom came back from a losing position to win. West Brom got their equalizer in the 15th minute when Forest’s goalkeeper Arijanet Muric couldn’t keep out Kyle Edwards left-footed shot, The Baggies completed the comeback just 6 minutes later, again Muric failed to deal with Matthew Phillips cross-like shot and the ball dropped into the net(an afternoon to forget for the Manchester City loanee). 2-1 it finished in favour of the visitors.
A good start for West Brom new manager Slaven Bilic who gave a debut to 5 players( 4 newly acquired players; Semi Ajayi, Romaine Sawyer, Flip Krovinovic, Kenneth Zohore, and 18-year-old Nathan Ferguson), and they all gave remarkable displays.
Bristol City 1-3 Leeds United:
Leeds United was coasting under new Boss Marcelo Bielsa towards winning the EFL Championship last season but then got caught up in a certain ‘Spygate’ controversy, and then everything went south as results were hard to come by. Leeds slipped out of the automatic promotion spot into the playoffs which they also lost to Derby County in the semifinals.
They put all behind them now as they began the new season with a swift 3-1 win at Ashton Road, home of Bristol City. The head-to-head stats didn’t favour City, as they have only won 1 out of 14 meetings, drawn just 2, and certainly, they weren’t ready to change the poor results against their visitor on Sunday afternoon.
Leeds got off with a 26th-minute opener, their Spanish import Pablo Hernandez found space at the edge of the opposition box and fired a left-footed curler into the upper right corner. The Spaniard then turned provider in the 57th minute, as Patrick Bamford nodded home at the near post for Leeds 2nd goal. It was game over in the 72nd minute when Jack Harrison made it 3 nil for Leeds, Andreas Weimann‘s goal in the 79th minute was a mere consultation for the host, as Leeds ran out with a 3-1 win.
Good start for Bielsa and his lads as they aim to live up to the preseason favourite tag given them by pundits.
Huddersfield – Derby County(Monday Night):
Derby County will begin her life without former handler Frank Lampard(whose managerial feat last season at Derby had earned him a call-up with his former club Chelsea FC) with a trip to newly relegated side Huddersfield in a Monday night football.
The last 5 league meetings between these 2 dated back to 2015 saw Derby won 2 in contrast to Huddersfield’s 1, with 2 draws including 2017 1 all draw at Derby before Huddersfield gained promotion into the EPL.
If new manager Phillip Cocu can match/replicate Lampard’s feat at Derby last season, then a good start and another wonderful season await Derby County.
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2019-20 English Football League season began with a Friday night football and what a way to begin a league season. Promoted side Luton Town played out an entertaining 3 all draw with Middlesbrough at home ground Kenilworth Road.
Luton Town, popularly known as The Hatters were returning to the Championship for the 1st time in 12 years, having gained promotion into England’s 2nd tier football by finishing last season as League 1 champion. Their manager Graeme Jones was making his managerial debut as he tasted his 1st baptism of fire in style.
Middlesbrough also referred to as Boro were aiming to start the league season campaign on a high, having finished the last a-disappointing 7th, narrowly missing out on a playoff spot to Derby County by a point. Boro has since parted ways with their then-manager Tony Pulis, replacing him with Jonathan Woodgate, who like Luton’s Jones, was making his debut at the dugout and he sure will have a debut to remember.
It was an entertaining end-to-end encounter with both teams matching each other with possession, 50%-50% it was and a 4-goal rush in the 1st-37 minutes, 2 each for both sides. Boro drew the 1st blood 7 minutes into the kick-off through an Ashley Fletcher glancing header that came off Marvin Johnson’s inswing cross, but the lead lasted 10 minutes as the home side leveled matters through Shinnie Bradley who fired in a spectacular left-footed shot from outside the box. The Hatters then took the lead in the 24th minute when Marvin Cranie nodded in Andrew Shinnie’s corner kick, however, Boro took the turn to equalize before half-time, Britt Assombalonga right-footed the leveler in the 37th minute.
Boro took a 2nd-half lead in the 68th minute through a delightful, swerving Lewis Wing‘s shot from the edge of the box and should have extended their lead and probably sealed victory in the 82nd minute when Martin Cranie conceded a foul in the box, but Assombalonga blasted against the crossbar from 12 yards. The miss would then hunt Boro as they conceded an 85th-minute goal, James Collins to the rescue for Luton Town, as it finished 3-3 on the night.
With the result, Luton Town remains unbeaten at home in 28 league matches, the last time Luton lost at home was a 2018 league two 1-2 defeat by Accrington Stanley. Middlesbrough, on the other, has avoided opening league match defeat for the 1st in 4 seasons including the 2016-17 premier league opener.
SOME OF EFL LAST SEASON’s CLUB & INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENTS:
Norwich City emerged as the SkyBet Championship winner with 94 points from 47 league matches ahead of 2nd place Sheffield Unite(89 points) and thus gained promotion into the English Premier League alongside Sheffield United.
Aston Villa joined Norwich and Sheffield United in the premier league having won the Championship playoffs by defeating Derby County in the final at the Wembley Stadium.
Player Of Season
Finland international Teemu Pukki had a remarkable season where he was the league-leading scorer with 29 goals in 37 matches, beating Aston Villa’s on-loan striker Tammy Abraham and Brentford’s Neal Maupay to the award. Pukki was also named the EFL player of the season for his league performances having also made 9 assists.
Team Of the Season
It is a strong start to the new season and I guess EFL fans are all in for another breathtaking league campaign. Thank you all for your time.
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The Major League Soccer All-Stars team once again lost to their visiting European opposition in shape of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night, a 1st half goal from Man-of-the-Match Marcos Llorente and a further 2 in the closing stages of the 2nd half from Atletico’s newly acquired teenage sensation Joao Felix and Diego Costa condemned the All-stars to a 0-3 defeat, their 4th consecutive losses at the annual one-match showpiece, having lost the last 3 edition, starting with last year’s penalty shootout loss to Italian giants Juventus after playing out a 1 all draw in regulation time. Similar to last year’s defeat was another shootout loss to Real Madrid in 2017 after another 1 all scoreline in regulation time. Then, there was a 1-2 loss to English premier league side Arsenal in 2016.
With the likes of MLS leading scorer Los Angeles FC Carlos Vela, top performers like DC United’s Wayne Rooney, Luiz Nani of Orlando City SC and of course LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the starting lineup, the All-Star slightly dominated their opposite team but couldn’t break down the Spaniards, they were limited to just 2 shots on target by one of Europe’s meanest defence, not even Barcelona, Manchester City or Juventus could boast of many scoring chances against Atletico Madrid defence.
MLS All-Stars’ 1st shot on target came in the 26th minute off the boot of former England international Rooney, who was deployed in the midfield by All-Stars’ coach James O’Connor of the Orlando City SC, Rooney’s effort was tipped over the bar by Atletico’s goalie Antonio Adan, however, it was officially not counted as the referee gave a goal kick instead. All-Stars, having gone down 0 -1 eventually had an attempt on goal in the 55th minute when Seattle Sounders and Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro drew a fine save from Atletico’s Adan. They got their 2nd and last shot on target in the 80th minute by Atlanta United and Argentine Ezequiel Barco but was safely dealt with by Atletico’s substitute goalkeeper Jan Oblak. 2 late goals, firstly, a long-range effort from Felix in the 85th minute and a close 6-yard goal by Costa finished off the All-Stars. Atletico Madrid’s superior attacking threat was the difference on the night as shown by the stats.
And so, the 18th edition of the annual MLS All-Stars matchups against International Clubs, the 15th against European oppositions ended in defeat, All-Stars’ 4th defeats in a row, with their last victory coming in the 2015 victory over the English side Tottenham Hotspurs(Kaka and David Villa on the scoresheet for the All-Stars). It was a victory that came off a remarkable come-from-behind 2014 2-1 triumph over German’s Bayern Munich(Bradley Wright-Phillips and Landon Donovan canceling Robert Lewandowski’s opener). The head-to-head against European oppositions since 2005 now stands at 7-8 against the MLS All-Stars.
Zlatan ‘Lion’ Ibrahimovic on Saturday couldn’t replicate an inspiring performance that saw him bagged a hat-trick in the Los Angeles Galaxy(LAG) 3-2 win over city rival Los Angeles FC(LAFC) in the battle of Zlatan vs Vela about 2 weeks ago, Zlatan was toothless in an embarrassing 0-4 defeat at the hands of Portland Timbers FC. 2 goals in either half condemned the LAG to her 3rd defeat in 5 MLS matches.
LAG came into the week 22 fixture full of confidence having defeated LAFC 3-2 in their last league game as earlier mentioned, with Zlatan upstaging the league-leading scorer Vela with 3 goals on the day, Zlatan’s performance was an exhibiting to his critics and whoever cared to listen that he is still the ‘Lion King’ after recent accolades have been showered on Carlos Vela for his stellar performances for LAFC.
Portland & LA Galaxy are 2 teams that know each other too well, both teams have met 5 whooping times in the last 16 month alone, sharing the head-to-head stats with 2 wins each and a draw. However, the recent meeting was at the United State Open Cup last month when Portland demolish LAG 4 nil, it seemed as lightning had struck LAG twice.
Portland is a team in form too, unbeaten in her last 5 matches with 3 wins and 2 draws and sure came into the clash with a plan, ‘stop Zlatan and you stop LAG’. Zlatan! the self-proclaimed ‘Lion’ was duly cage by the Portland ‘ringleaders’, he(Zlatan) was reduced to only 5 shots all 90 minutes. Portland 1st-2 goals came off a swift counter-attack, firstly, it was Cristhian Parades who finished off Jorge Moreira cross with a glancing header in the 37th minute, and 4 minutes later, another counter-attack saw Argentine’s Diego Valeri put through down the left-hand side, to finish off a mazy-solo run with a cool finish into the far post.
Further 2 goals were scored in the closing minutes of the 2nd half, Parades completed his double with a fine volley in the 81st minute. LAG’s night was made even miserable when they were reduced to 10 men in the 84th minute after Efrain Alvarez couldn’t keep his frustration in check, and just 4 minutes later, Portland got their 4th goal of the night when Jeremy Ebrobisse nodded in to complete the rout. More frustration for LAG after the final whistle when one of her player Diego Polenta was sent off alongside Portland player Dairon Asprilla for violent conducts.
The defeat now means LAG has slipped further behind city rival LAFC into 3rd place still on 37 points, level with San Jose Earthquakes also on 37 points but with superior goal difference, and have been overtaken into 2nd place by Seattle Sounders who are now on 38 points.
Los Angeles see-saw season continues with her last 7 league matches’ Lose-Win sequence goes like L-W-L-W-L-W-L (Win 3-Lose 4), not a healthy set of results for a playoff-chasing LAG.
Former Arsenal ace Carlos Vela may have surprisingly switched European football for the Major League Soccer in the United State of America about 2 years ago, his skill and finesse in front of goal is undoubtedly undeniable, a reason why the Los Angeles FC(LAFC) took a giant leap to bring him over, and only 2 seasons on, LAFC are reaping the dividend. With the Mexican International leading the attack, LAFC sits aloft of rival clubs on the MLS Western Conference league table with 49 points after 22 matches (W15-L3-D4), some 12 points ahead of the nearest challenger and city rival Los Angeles Galaxy(37 points after 21 matches).
MLS week 21 league match paired LAFC against equally high flyers Atlanta United and once again Vela was inspiring and among the goal scorer in his team’s battling 4-3 win, his 22nd goal of the season. The last time both teams met, it was Atlanta United that ran over their opponent in a 5 nil whitewash win, and another whitewash seemed on the card when the visitors and the defending MLS Cup champion raced to an early 2nd-minute goal through Mohammed Adams, LAFC however, responded with a 1st-half 12-minute goal rout that was started by Adama Diomande in the 33rd minute , Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela and Eduard Atuesta completed the turnaround and capped off a crazy scoring spree with a 4-1 lead. Nevertheless, LAFC got complacent and conceded a 1st-half late goal through Josef Martinez, to go into the break 4-2. They conceded another goal in the 51st minute through an own-goal by Eddie Segura, to make the remaining minutes of the match a nervy one, but kudos to LAFC, they held their nerves to edge the match 4-3.
While the Swede superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic often time make the headlines on and off the pitch, the Mexican International focused on his on-the-pitch performances, and his performances sure speak for him. He’s already been voted as player of the week 3 times and counting, the league-leading scorer with 22 goals from 21 matches, 6 goals ahead of the Swedes(16 goals) and 5 goals ahead of nearest scorer on 17 goals(Josef Martinez) , the 22 goals coming from a total of 47 shots on target(league highest), from a total of 108 shots(also the league highest). Vela’s game is not just about scoring, he provides assist too, and he is the league joint assist maker with 13 alongside NYCFC’s Maximiliano Moralez. Vela is also ranked highest by Audi’s player index rankings with 886 points ahead of nearest performer New England Revolution’s Gustavo Bou on 750 points, check here for more stats. The total goals for a single season by a player was Josef Martinez’s 31 goals for Atlanta United last season, however, with Vela’s present scoring rate, he is well on course to break Martinez tally before the season ends.
2 years after playing her 1st MLS game in a 1 nil victory over Seatle Sounders FC, LAFC is on course for the playoffs and a probable title with Carlos Vela pulling the strings for the Black and Gold.
Andres Iniesta has been named the latest La Liga Icon, a La Liga initiative to continue growing worldwide driven by the popularity of players like the FC Barcelona legend.
The 35-year-old currently playing his football in Japan becomes the newest star to be named a La Liga Icon af- ter his Spanish teammate Iker Casillas. “We are delighted to have Andres Iniesta on board as a La Liga Icon” said La Liga President, Javier Tebas. “He is a player who inspires millions and is a fantastic representative for what La Liga stands for across the globe.”
Boxing fans across the world were treated to a sumptuous weekend with 3 entertaining bouts that include a WBA Super Welterweight title bout between the holder Keith Thurman and Challenger Manny Pacquiao and Heavyweight bouts between Dillian Whyte and Oscar Rivas & Derek Chisora and Artur Szpilka. Pacquiao battled past Thurman to become the new WBA Super Welterweight Champion while both Whyte and Chisora recorded victories respectively on Saturday night.
AGE IS NOTHING BUT NUMBER:
40-year-old Philippine Manny Pacquiao keeps reminding us all that age is just a number, the Philippines congressman continues to awe fans after another commendable victory over a younger opponent Americas 30-year-old Thurman at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won in a split decision(to the mystified commentator, who in his opinion believe it should have been a unanimous Pacquiao win) 115-112, 115-112 & 113-114 on the 3 judges scorecard.
The PacMan came off the block blazing and quickly cornered his opponent but Thurman showed quick feet and some counter punches to get out of trouble, however, not for long as Pacquiao landed a fierce jab that caught Thurman’s jaw which sent the American to the canvass, a statement of intent from Pacquiao right from the 1st round. Thurman, as expected, wouldn’t lie down without a fight, stepped up the gas and duly stifled Pacquiao especially in round 6 & 7, however, the composed PacMan had done enough to be ahead in the judges’ scorecard and overall out-boxed his opponent as the bout went the full rounds.
Manny Pacquiao’s record now improves to Win 62(39 KOs)-Loss 7-Draw 2, and at 40 years old, he became the oldest Welterweight champion in boxing history. Thurman, on the other hand, did not only lose his Super Welterweight title but has been handed his 1st ever defeat, now W 29(22 KOs)-L 1-D 0.
WHYTE FINALLY SET FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE SHOWDOWN:
Somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean, in the United Kingdom was a heavyweight clash between long overdue title challenger Dillian Whyte and the unbeaten Oscar Rivas took place at the O2 Arena London. Whyte has always been repeatedly overlooked by the likes of former WBO & WBA Champion Anthony Joshua and current WBC Champion Deontay Wilder, however, he can now have a shot at the WBC title come 2020 after he’d been made a mandatory challenger.
It wasn’t all roses for Whyte as his Colombian opponent came out of the block with the aggressiveness in round 1, but Whyte responded immediately in round 2 with devastating jabs which could have ended the bout but Rivas managed to see the round through. Whyte continued to punish Rivas with his customary jabs and body shots round after round and was coasting until the 9th round when he was shockingly sent to the deck by Rivas, an unforeseen Rivas’ uppercut landed clean, to land the Brixton his 3rd career knockdown having only previously been knockdown by Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker. Nevertheless, Whyte had done enough in all 3 judges’ scorecard to earn him a unanimous victory 115-112, 115-112 & 116-111.
Whyte record now stands at W 26(18)-L 1-D 0, Oscar Rivas now suffered his 1st career defeat and shares an identical record with Whyte at W26(18)-L 1-D 0.
CHISORA STILL HUNGERS FOR THE BIG FIGHTS:
Still at the O2 Arena on same Saturday night was Derek Chisora taking on Artur Szpilka in another heavyweight showdown. The 35-year-old Brixton was in a no-nonsense mood as he took just under 2 rounds to brushed aside his 30-year-old Polish opponent.
The early exchanges were all about Chisora’s attacks and Szpilka’s counter-attacking as Chisora seeks an early breakthrough. He got what he wanted in the 2nd round when one of his right hooks sent Szpilka wobbling to the ropes, he quickly followed up with more combos that eventually sent the pole to the canvass much to the delight of the cheering home fans. Chisora’s record now stands at W 31(15 KOs)-L 9-D 0 while his opponent slumped to his 4 career defeat W 22(15 KOs)-L 4-D 0.
Derek Chisora reiterated after the bout that his age is nothing but just a number, that he feels like a 16-year-old. He also made his intention of getting a big fight against the like of Joseph Parker known.
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Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt 2019 began with a colourful eye-catching opening ceremony, with fans and viewers across the globe treated to the rich monuments of the Egyptians and as it is tradition, wrapped up with spectacular fireworks display. Egypt was given the mandate to host the Mundial just 6 months ago and to have pulled it off deserved a pat on the back, it could be recalled that Cameroun was initially giving the right to host the tournament, but was running dangerously behind schedule.
It is the 1st time that the Africa Cup of Nations will be played in line with the European summer after it was moved from January, it was a smart move to put an end to a biannual tussle between European clubs and African Nation on player release. The qualified team was also increased from 16 to 24 team for the 1st time ever. We are definitely in for a mouthwatering Africa Cup of Nations.
Matters on the pitch set up an opening Group A match between host, The Pharaohs of Egypt against The Warriors of Zimbabwe. The pressure is always going to be on Egypt to host and win the tournament, having agonizingly, narrowly lost the 2017 tournament 1-2 to Cameroun in the final. The Egyptians sure have enough quality to win it, with the likes of the current African footballer of the year Mo Salah in their ranks. They will have to navigate a tricky Group A that includes Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda.
It was a scrappy 1st half with few clear cut chances to come by, yet the host could have gotten an early 1st-minute goal had Zimbabwe goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda not made 2 quick saves in succession. Zimbabwe defended in numbers and hoped to break on counters with the speed of Kaizer Chief ace Khama Billiat to count on, but the Egyptians deprived them of the ball. However, Zimbabwe could have gotten into a shock lead in the 35th minute, a free-kick in front of the box was quickly taken, but Billiat fluffed his line and fired wide. They would rue that missed chance 6 minutes later as Egypt took the lead, Mahmoud Trezeguet curled in a right-footed shot from the left side of the box into the bottom right corner. Egypt went into the break with a deserved 1 nil lead.
The 2nd-half started and it was all Egypt still and they could have doubled their lead through Liverpool man Mo Salah, but the forward wasted a handful of chances on the night. Egypt conveniently saw off the match with a slim 1 nil victory, as Zimbabwe, with just 2 shots on target all night posed little or no threat.
Zimbabwe will fancy their chances against less glamorous DRC and Uganda, but they now sweat on the fitness of their 1st choice goalkeeper who was replaced late in the game. The host, on the other hand, needs to do better in front of goal, especially Mo Salah needs to put the team ahead of self-glory, as things/matches will get tougher as the tournament progresses, missed chance may come back to hurt teams.
There will be only 1 British team in the round of 16 of the on-going Women’s World cup holding in France. England defeated 2011 champion Japan 2-0 to advanced into the next round as Group C winner with 9 maximum points. Scotland Women, on the other hand, was knocked out of the tournament in a dramatic manner, having played out an entertaining 3 all draw against Argentina Women. With the result, Scotland finished at the bottom of Group C with just 1 point.
SCOTLAND 3-3 ARGENTINA:
Scotland women had already made history by qualifying for the showpiece for the 1st time ever. Their reward was a juicy Group C draw that saw them paired with British counterpart England, 1-time champion Japan and South America stalwart Argentina.
Things didn’t start the way the Scots would have loved though, a back-to-back 1-2 losses to both England and Japan meant that the last group match against Argentina is a must win and convincingly if they were to reach the last 16. The team needed inspiration and boy! they got one from one of the legend of the sport, Sir Alex Ferguson. Scotland manager Shelley Kerr revealed at a press conference that she was contacted by the great Scot Sir Alex, and he was complimentary about the team.
Whatever tips that Sir Alex gave Kerr certainly worked for about 70 minutes before things went south for Scotland. They started well and got the needed opener in the 19th minute through Kim Little. The Scots looked on course into the last 16 (ahead of Nigeria who lies in wait for a favourable result to advance too) when they got 2 2nd-half goals in the 49th and 69th minutes respectively through Jenny Beattie and Eric Cuthbert. However, the Scots got complacent and things began to fell apart from the 74th minute. Argentina pulled a goal back through Milagros Menendez and another via Scotland goalkeeper, Lee Alexander’s unfortunate own-goal in the 79th minute. VAR then played a crucial role in the dramatic late equalizer. Argentina was awarded a penalty kick, which was missed by Flor Bousegundo, and just like in previous games Italy-Jamaica & Frace-Nigeria, VAR called for the spot-kick to be retaken because of the goalkeeper’s infringement, this time Bousegundo made no mistake to even the scores at 3 all.
Heartbreak for the Scots as they finished bottom of the group with a lone point and were knocked out of the group stage. With the result, whichever team that emerges victorious in the Group E tie between Cameroun and New Zealand is most definitely going to join China, Brazil and Nigeria as 4 of the best 3rd-placed team in the round of 16, and if Cameroun-New Zealand ended in a draw, then a winner in the Group F encounter between Thailand and Chile will have the slot despite their huge goal deficits.
JAPAN 0-2 ENGLAND:
Ever since the English women team busted unto the world stage by coming 3rd out of the last FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015, defeating perennial rival Germany 1 nil, they have not looked back, they have climbed up the ladder to 3rd on FIFA’s Women rankings. Now, with the stakes raised so high, a group stage exit would be a catastrophe with other Group C(Japan, Scotland and Argentina) teams lurking.
They started the tournament with a statement of intent, winning their 1st 2 matches against Scotland and Argentina to secure a round of 16 passage. However, the last group match against Japan was equally important as the group’s top spot was at stake. Manager Phil Neville reiterated the team’s desire to keep winning and promised to set up a strong lineup against the team that defeated them in last world cup semifinal, Japan.
England surely keen for revenge and they made sure with a 14th-minute lead, Ellen White got to the end of a Georgia Stanway’s through the pass. England slightly edged possession and should have been 2 or 3 goals up, but Japan’s Ayaka Yamashita was handy for his team going into the break. England eventually got their 2nd goal in the 2nd half, Ellen White completed her double in the 84th minute to wrap up victory for England.
9 maximum points(3 wins out of 3 matches) for the 3-Lionesses going into the round of 16, with Japan finishing 2nd in the group with 4 points.
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South Africa bowed out of the ongoing FIFA Women World Cup in France after losing their 3rd successive group B match. Coach Desiree Ellis tutored side lost 0-4 to the current Olympic Champion, Germany, to become the 1st African team to exit the tournament. Another Africa’s representative, the Super Falcons of Nigeria will have to wait for other results to go their way before they can book a spot in the next round. Nigeria was beaten 0-1 by the host, France, via a controversial VAR call in their last group A match in Renne.
Participating in the Mundial for the 1st time ever, the South African had an uphill task of advancing from the group stage having been drawn in a tough group that includes 2-time former champion Germany, Spain and China. Banana Bayana as the South African women are called, began their world cup campaign with a disappointing 1-3 loss to Spain. Much improved performance by the Bayana Bayana in their 2nd match against China, unfortunately, it also ended in a 0-1 loss. The South African needed a miracle to beat Germany and advance into the next round, but the miracle never came.
Germany, on the other hand, is one of the bookmakers favourite to lift the trophy, but the German Machines are yet to reach top gear so far in this year’s tournament, 2 slim 1-nil victories over China and Spain was not a vintage efficient German performance women football had seen over the years. However, the German women fancied a goal feast against the 1st timer, South Africa, in what was definitely a mismatch on paper.
Germany took the early ascendancies as expected, imposing the physical advantage on their smaller South Africans. Germany is known for their Aerial and set-piece prowess, they duly made it count in the 14th minute, Melanie Leupolz was left unmarked in the South African box, and she obliged with a nodded goal from a corner kick. Germany was then gifted the 2nd goal in the 29th minute when South African goalkeeper Andile Dlamini made a mess of a wayward square play, Dlamini pushed the ball unto the path of un-rushing Sara Dabritz, who fired into an empty net. Yet another headed goal for Germany in the 40th minute, Giulia Gwinn’s fine cross into the box was met by Alexandra Popp, to make it 3 nil in favour of Germany. South Africa’s chance of scoring was made even harder with their pacey forward, Thembi Kgatlana not fit enough to make the starting 11, and it was evident in the teams poor showing in the attack, firing a single shot at Germany’s goal in the entirety of the 1st 45 minutes.
Desperately needing a goal, South Africa brought on half-fit Kgatlana after the break, and she could have gotten on the scoresheet when she broke away with lightning pace, but she couldn’t beat Almuth Schult in goal for Germany. Soon after, Germany got their 4th goal in the 58th minute, another set-piece was nodded goal bound as Dlamini put a hand to it, it rebounded off the post and was tapped in by Lina Magull. Germany could have scored as much as twice as they did, but series of fine saves from Dlamini plus a handful of mises from Popp and Magull kept the scoreline at just 4 nil.
South Africa exited the world cup with 3 losses out of 3 group matches, 1 goal scored and 8 goals conceded, a spirited fight from a team ranked 49th on FIFA’s roster, some way down the ladder below their Group B counterparts Germany(2), Spain(13) and China(16).
WAITING GAME FOR NIGERIA;
Having won their 2nd Group A match 2-0 over South Korea, Nigeria needed a point to guarantee a spot in the next round, however, the Super Falcons were on the back foot throughout the encounter as the host asked all the threatening questions. At some point in the match, the possession was 30% – 70% to France. Nigeria held the host to a half-time stalemate and looked like they were going to weather the storm all 90 minutes, however, with France threatening and probing, it was only a matter of time before the breakthrough goal came for the host, in a bit of controversy though. Falcons’ Ngozi Ebere conceded a penalty-kick which led to her been dismissed in 75th minutes, after her 2nd booking, France’s Wendie Renard’s initial kick missed the target, however, VAR called for a replay as Nigeria goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie was adjudged to have left the goal line as the ball was kicked. The burning question is, why call for a replay when the spot-kick was completely missed by Wendie? Nevertheless, Wendie retook the spot-kick and scored as France won Group A with 9 maximum points.
Nigeria still has a slim chance of making the next round, if other groups’ results turn out in their favour, for now, its a nail-biting wait for the Super Falcons, Nigerians and Africa as a whole.
The 2019 Copa America host, Brazil began their campaign with a routine 3 nil win over Bolivia, 3 2nd-half goals from unsettled Barcelona ace, Philippe Coutinho and a further goal added by a substitute, Everton, was all the host needed to overcome Bolivia, in a far from vintage Brazil performance. With the other Group A tie between Peru and Venezuela ended in a goalless stalemate, Brazil sits atop Group A with 2 points margin and 3 goals advantage.
Brazil have failed to win the tournament since they last won it in 2007, the pressure is on for the Samba Boys to add to their tally of 8 Copa America titles, and they have to do it without their talismanic striker, Neymar Jnr, who got injured while preparing for the tournament.
The last 5 meetings between Brazil and Bolivia is slightly in Brazil’s favour, with 2 wins, 2 draws and a solitary defeat, and the odds favoured them to win again at the Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium. Wearing an unpopular white shirt for the 1st time in about 60 years (most of us on scorum platform were not even conceived when they last wore a white shirt), in honour of their 1st Copa America win on home soil some 100 years ago(1919), Brazil lacked inspiration in the final 3rd. It was a lacklustre 1st-half performance by the Samba Boys, where they failed to register a shot on target. The front trio of Richarlison(Everton), Firmino(Liverpool) and David Neres(Ajax) failed to trouble an unfazed Bolivia defence despite dominating the entire proceedings, which prompted jeers and boos from the home supporters towards the Brazilians.
However, the host put up a better show in the 2nd half and was rewarded with a goal 5 minutes into the restart via a VAR assisted penalty-kick. Adrian Jusino was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, and Coutinho duly converted for the 1st goal. The host pulled further clear just 3 minutes later, with Coutinho at the double, the Barcelona ace nodded in from close range from a Firmino cross. The host made victory sure with a 3rd goal 5 minutes from stoppage time and in style, substitute, Everton’s right footed shot from outside the box beat the Bolivia goalkeeper, Carlos Lampe to the bottom right corner.
A slightly improved 2nd half saw Brazil fire 5 shots on target, scoring 3 out of it, however not the kind of performance expected of Brazil, aiming to host and win for the 5th times, having hosted and won in 1919, 1922, 1949 and 1989, they won’t have the luxury of recovering from a slow start against the likes of Chile, Argentina, or even Uruguay.
An oftentimes difficult opening match is out of the way, they can now focus on the next game against Venezuela, with plenty of room for improvement.
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Toronto Raptors defied all odds to claim their maiden NBA Championship with a 114-110 victory in Game 6 to take a 4-2 series triumph over favourites and the 2-time defending champion, the Golden State Warriors. Few would have seen this coming, probably Drake and a just a handful die-hard Raptors fans, but the Raptors did it, not without a stroke of good fortune on their path and misfortune on the path of their opponent, Golden State Warriors who were ravaged by injuries to key players.
Once the Raptors had claimed a 3-1 series lead, it was always going to be a daunting task for the Warriors playing catch-up. The Warriors were never at full strength throughout the playoffs till the final, with injuries at some point or the other to the likes of Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, starman Kevin Durant and then DeMarcus Cousins was never really the same player since his return from a torn left quad.
The Raptors drew the series’ 1st blood with Game 1 victory, winning 118-109 at home, but like a warrior, the Golden State Warrior fought back to take the next Game 109-104 on the road. However, Raptors did the unthinkable, taking the next 2 games at the Oracle Arena, 123-109 & 105-92 respectively to take the series lead 3-1 and be on the brink of a historical NBA final triumph. But then, a surprise return of Kevin Durant for Game 5 which was short-lived, as Durant lasted just the 1st quarter and 3 minutes of the 2nd quarter, however, his presence may have boosted his teammate’s morale as they went on without him to narrowly win Game 5 106-105. Nevertheless, there was no denying the Raptors of the glory, as they seal the series 4-2, with a Game 6 hard-fought 114-110 win.
It was a close Game 6 contest, right from the 1st quarter, the Raptors raced to an 8-0 lead through Kyle Lowly, but the Warriors gradually claw their way back into the game, as the quarter ended 33-32 to the Raptors. It was a see-saw game from then on, as the lead kept exchanging hands several times. Klay Thompson in the thick of things for the Warriors, while Kawhi Leonard was also up and running for the Raptors, as the Raptors still edged the 2nd quarters 60-57. The Raptors were destined for victory, as Golden State Warriors leading scorer with 30 points, Klay Thompson left the court injured with about 2 minutes of the 3rd quarter remaining, Warriors did manage to overtake the Raptors though, ending the quarter with an 88-86 lead. However, the loss of Klay Thompson in the Warrior’s rank proved crucial in the 4th and final quarter, as the Raptors regained the lead through a Fred VanVleet jump shot with less than 4 minutes to play, and the Raptors never relinquish the lead, closing up the game 114-110, for a famous win.
Pascal Siakem and Kyle Lowry both recorded 26 points for the Raptors, with Kawhi Leonard and Fred VanVleet adding further 22 points each. Serge Ibaka(15 points) and Marc Gasol(3 points) also got on the scoreboard for the Raptors. Warriors’ Klay Thompson led the way with 30 points before getting injured, Andre Iguodala(22 points), DeMarcus Cousins(12 points) and Draymond Green(11 points) all in double figures, but wasn’t enough for the Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors will not be defending the NBA Championship for a 3rd successive year, no thanks to the Toronto Raptors, who won the NBA finals for the 1st time in their history. More worrying for the Warriors is the talisman Kevin Durant may be out of the entirety of the next NBA season.
Is this the end of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty? or An injury free next season will propel the Warriors back to the summit of NBA dominance?
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Real Madrid continued their summer spending spree on Wednesday by completing the signing of left-back Ferland Mendy from Lyon.
Mendy has signed a six-year contract with Madrid, who have now added four new players for next season following the arrivals of Eder Militao, Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic. Hazard was the most expensive of the quartet, joining in a deal that could reach up to 145 million euros, while Militao and Jovic each cost around 50 and 65 million euros respectively. The fee for Mendy was reportedly set at around 50 million euros, which would mean Madrid’s summer spending is already worth around 300 million euros in total.
Africa recorded her 1st victory in the on-going FIFA Women World Cup in France, when 1 of her 3-flag bearers, Nigeria recorded a 2 nil win over group A counterpart, South Korea. It was a much-needed relief for both Nigeria and Africa as a loss could have made 2nd-round qualification a daunting task. South Africa and Cameroun, the 2 other Africa’s representative can now draw inspiration from Nigeria’s victory. It could be recalled that all 3 recorded a losing start to their campaign in France.
Having lost their opening match 0-3 to Norway Nigerian Women known as the Super Falcons knew that the tie against South Korea is a must win if they are to go beyond the group stage for the 1st time since their only qualification out of group stage in 1999, hosted by the United State of America. However, the win certainly didn’t come on a platter of gold, the South Korean(14th), like France(4th) and Norway(12th) which completed group A teams are some places above the Super Falcons(38th) on FIFA rankings, nevertheless, the Koreans are struggling for form going into the match, having not only lost their opener to France 0-4, the failed to record a single win in their last 4 international matches, drew 1 and lost 3, and the Nigerian duly took advantage of their opponent.
The tie was dominated largely by the Koreans, but it was the Nigerians that drew the 1st shot on target in the 10th minute through Desire Oparanozie’s header, but it was well saved by Kim Minjung in goal for Korea. Korea responded 8 minutes later with their own effort on target through Lee Geum-Min, but Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie was up to the challenge. However, Nigeria took the lead just before the half-hour mark when Kim Do-Yeon put the ball into his own net after pressure from Oparanozie, VAR check for a possible handball from the Nigerian striker with ball goal-bound, but there was none as the goal stood. Super Falcons held onto their 1 nil lead going into the half-time break.
South Korean stepped up the gas in the 2nd half as expected, drawing Nigeria’s goalkeeper to a save 7 minute into the restart, Nnadozie was making another save in the 58th minute, denying Jang Sel-Gi. Korea failed to break the Falcons down despite their larger possession as the Nigerians were resolute in defence. Korean thought they have the equaliser after the hour mark, but it was rightly ruled offside for Nigeria’s relief. Nigeria then pulled further clear with an all-important 2nd goal following a swift counter-attack, Barcelona ace, Asisat Oshoala rounded up Korean goalkeeper before firing home from a tight corner. Nigeria would have their goalkeeper, Nnadozie to thank for a couple of smart saves and good positioning in quick succession as the Korean threaten to score, Yeo Min-Ji was denied in the 87th and 90th minutes respectively by Nnadozie who preserved Nigeria’s 2-goal lead as the referee blew for full time.
There is a whole lot of work still to be done by the Super Falcons if they are to beat the group stage, they play a talented host, France in the last group A fixtures, and they must avoid a big margin defeat or get a draw if not an upset in that crucial last match. The Nigerians now pick up a win to improve on a poor Women’s World Cup record to 4 wins, 17 losses and 3 draws in 8 tournaments.
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