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175 Derby D’Italia, Juventus-Inter Milan Match Preview.

Two(2) of Serie A’s most successful club sides Juventus and Inter Milan lock horns in the famous Derby D’Italia for the 175th Serie A fixtures on Sunday evening. With both teams on the heels of each other on the Serie A log table(Inter playing a game less), the result of this matchup will definitely shape up the table with high flying Lazio waiting in the wings to pounce on any slip off from either or both of them.

Inter Milan will want to get one over their rival at this 2nd time of asking having lost the 1st leg 1-2 at the San Siro. The Derby D’Italia had been touted to be where the league is won or lost for either of the duos of Juve and Inter, however, having played 25 league matches so far, the top 3 of Juve, Lazio & Inter are separated with just 6 points as shown in the league table, and a lot can still go right or wrong irrespective of the results of Derby D’Italia.

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Juventus:
Juve has won every single scudetto since 2011/12 season till date, however, the Old Ladies have not been dominant in the past couple of years, failing to do a domestic double last season. Some pundits have attributed the recent struggle of the team to over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo, the support casts of Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Juan Cuadrado have not all measure up and some had further argued that the manager Maurizio Sarri’s tactics are to blame.

Nevertheless, the champion plays at home and will draw inspirations from the home crowd and of course, Ronaldo is always fired up for the big occasions.

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Sarri-ball vs Conte-dynamism whose tactics will be spot on? Derby D’Italia couldn’t get fiercer under these gaffers

Inter Milan:
Inter’s resurgence under Antonio Conte has been well documented and the new lease of life within the Nerazzurri camp has brought about believes and dreams of a 1st Scudetto title in more than a decade. However, Inter were on a 6 match winning run when they played and lost the 1st leg 1-2 to Juve and if there is any manager to be wary of Juve’s prowess any day & anytime, it would be Antonio Conte. In 2011/12-2013/14, Conte helped Juventus laid the foundation on which 8 consecutive Serie A titles were won.

Head-2-Head:
Though Inter Milan’s last visit to the Allianz Stadium was a 1 all draw at the International champions cup last summer, her overall record against Juve over last 5 matches is not encouraging, recording just 2 draws and lost 3 as shown below;

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Key Players:
Juventus undoubtedly go-to man is Cristiano Ronaldo(11 consecutive Serie A goals attest to that fact), however, the duo of Paulo Dybala & Gonzalo Higuain can inflict damage to any team on their day. Be that as it may, the front 3 of the trio has not really worked, the manager Sarri might, therefore, stick to Juan Cuadrado in place of either of Dybala or Higuain in the attack.

Inter Milan, on the other hand, have a more clicking forward lineup of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez & Alexi Sanchez(Alexi especially gradually getting his groove back after a long injury lay off). Whatever tactic or formation Conte opted for, 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, these 3 will definitely play a daring role if Inter is to get a result against Juve. The likes of Christian Eriksen & Marcelo Brozovic could also be pulling the strings from the midfield.

Betting odds:
The reigning champion has the edge in this tie and the bookies agree, however, there is more to winning your bet than predicting just the winner, smart scorum could be placed on CR7 getting a goal or 2 while Dybala & Higuain could also be on the scoresheet;
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My Prediction:
Juventus 2-1 Inter Milan,
As much as i want to root for Inter, i just think Juve knows out to grind out results, especially on home turf, i mean that’s why they are 8-times back-to-back champion.

Thank you for your support.

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El Clasico! Who Will Come Out On Top? Real-Barca Preview.

The 2nd instalment of the El Clasico is back and it will see FC Barcelona travels to the Santiago Bernabeu to slug it out with Real Madrid in the league reverse fixture on coming Sunday.

The 1st fixture between these 2 at Camp Nou ended in a drab draw, a goalless draw that saw the 2 sides’ combine shots on target to be awfully just 6 shots. It was the 1st in 50 El Clasicos not to have produced a single goal, a run dated back to 18 years ago, November 2002.

Home side(Real Madrid):

Having began the current league campaign on a shaky note that includes 3 consecutive draws against Valencia(1-1), Barcelona(0-0) & Athletic Bilbao(0-0) in December, the Los Blanco seems to have turn the corner with 5 consecutive league victories that includes a hard-fought 1 nil win over Atletico Madrid about 4 weeks ago and even leapfrogged Barcelona at the top of the league table. However, a recent wobble, a 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo and a surprise 0-1 loss at Levante soon raises eyebrows.

And rubbing salt to Real’s injury is the news that their Belgian superstar Eden Hazard who recently returned from a lengthy injury has gone back to the treatment table for probably the rest of the season after fracturing his right fibula in the defeat to Levante. The good news is, Real has a genius in the French tactician Zinedine Zidane and it won’t be much of a headache for him finding a way around Hazard’s absence.

Away side(Barcelona):

Barcelona, on the other hand, began the league with decent results and were on top of the league table under former boss Ernesto Valverde, however, the Blaugrana weren’t particularly coasting under the Spaniard, and a run of just 1 win in 5 matches across all competitions that include 2-3 Spanish Supercopa loss to Atletico Madrid brought about the end of Valverde’s reign.

In came new manager Quique Setien, the man said to have the Midas touch of Barca legend Johan Cruyff. Setien had overseen 9 matches across all competitions since taking over from Valverde and had admirably won 7 and lost 2, however, the losses include the 0-1 devastating exit from Copa del Rey at the hands of Bilbao. The defeat was soon compounded with the news of turmoil within Barca hierarchies and some seniors players.

Barca has yet to rediscover the tiki-taka football promised by Setien, however, they have a certain Lionel Messi. The ingenious forward last weekend showed what he’s capable of with 4 goals in his team’s 5 nil win over Eibar, putting aside all the confusions surrounding the team in recent weeks.

Head 2 Head.

The last 5 matches between these 2 across all competitions give the edge to Barcelona as shown below, however, as shown often time, form and H2H results don’t necessarily count in rivalry matches.

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Missing key players;

Host: Eden Hazard; Real might not particularly feel the absence of the Belgian as he hasn’t really gotten into his dazzling groove since his initial injury return. Another notable absentee for the Los Blancos will be Rodrygo, the Brazilian picked up his marching order in a reserve match on Sunday. Others include Asensio who is still far from recovery.

Visitor: Barca will not only misses Ousmane Dembele who is out of the season with another lengthy injury lay off but also Luiz Suarez, the Uruguayan is still out on the treatment table.

Betting Tip;
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With both teams not firing in all cylinder as expected, one could be forgiven for leaning towards another drab draw. However, as shown in the odds above, the bookies seem to favour a Real victory.

My Prediction:

Real 0-0 Barca,

With Real struggling in front of opposition teams in recent matches, particularly Karim Benzema on a barren scoring run, i think Real will rather approach the match with caution. Barca, on the other hand, played poorly in midweek UCL and might labour again at the Bernabeu.

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Victories For Atleti & Dortmund But Ties Still Delicately Poised

2 of the most anticipated ties of the 2019/20 UCL Round-of -16 clashes went down on Tuesday night, the 1st leg clashes saw Liverpool went down 0-1 to Atletico Madrid in Spain while Dortmund also edged PSG 2-1 in Germany.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Liverpool

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It’s a tale of the unstoppable force Liverpool going back to their old hunting ground Wanda Metropolitano to slug it out against the immovable object Atletico Madrid. Most would argue that Atleti isn’t that immovable object anymore but they will as well agree that there is no undermining Diego Simeone’s well-drilled Atletico Madrid, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp understood this when he said in one of his prematch conferences that playing Atleti ‘machine’ is brutal to players.

“Playing Atletico is one of the most difficult things in the life of a football player”-Klopp

Klopp couldn’t be more right as Atleti not only jettison possession for doggedness but also took an early lead when Saul Niguez scored just 4 minutes into the game. The Reds, despite having the larger possession of the ball were restricted to just 1 clear cut chance in the 1st half.

Atleti dropped even deeper in the 2nd half, frustrating Liverpool’s efforts for an equalizer and eventually saw off the tie with a slim 1 nil victory. A goal at Anfield in the return leg will make things complicated for the Reds.

It was a night Liverpool front 3 of Mane, Salah & Firmino failed to click, no thanks to vintage Atleti resolute defending. Mane and Salah were both hauled out and replaced by Divock Origi and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlin respectively.

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Mastermind Diego Simeone

Simeone has never lost a UCL knockout game at home as Atleti manager, played 13, won 9 & drew 4, the Argentine maintained that impressive record. Liverpool, on the other hand, lost the battle against Atleti but the war is far from over, they, under Klopp, have never lost a 2-leg-UCL tie and will draw confidence in such feat when Atleti comes visiting at Anfield for the 2nd leg.

Borussia Dortmund 2-1 PSG

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There is a local saying from where i come from that interprets to; “where 2 irons meet, 1 must bend for the other”. This is how best to describe Borussia Dortmund Round-of-16 tie against PSG, 2 of Europe’s free scoring sides.

The 2 sides in their respective domestic league have been scoring goals with reckless abandon. While the host boast of attacking lineup of Thorgan Hazard, Jadon Sancho and the newly acquired, free-scoring Erling Haaland, the visitor are also blessed with rich frontline that includes Neymar Jnr, Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, Mauro Icardi amongst others, and even more pressing is the fact that Dortmund’s former handler Thomas Tuchel now leads PSG’s dogout, some had touted him to be the x-factor if PSG is to advance ahead of Dortmund.

It was a keenly contested 1st half, however, it was the host that asked all the questions in front of goal while the visitor PSG failed to register a single shot on target, a rare occurrence judging by the array of accomplished strikers in their arsenal, in fact, the last time PSG failed to register a shot on target in a UCL match was in the defeat against Manchester United in last season Round-of-16.

The deadlock was finally broken 9 minutes after the hour mark, however, it wasn’t the star-studded PSG that notched it, it was the home side through their golden boy Haaland. Mbappe and Neymar combined for the latter to restore parity in the 75th minute, however, parity only lasted 2 minutes as Haaland completed his double in the 77th minute to restore Dortmund lead.

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Erling Haaland

The sky is the limit for the young lad Haaland who now has 10 UCL goals(8 goals with Red bull & further 2 with Dortmund) this season and became the 2nd youngest player after Mbappe to reach that goal tally.

Dortmund held on to record a slim 1st-leg win, however, they would have it all to do in the return leg at the Parc de France, PSG away goal will play a major role in both teams will be set up come March 11 when the return leg will be played.

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Kenin Did It, Enthroned As The New Australian Open Champion.

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The Mountain Before Kenin

American Sofia Kenin faces the biggest challenge of her career when she takes on home favourite and top seed Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the semifinal of the ongoing Australian Open.

Having never gone past the round of 16 of the Grand Slams, Kenin surprised her camp and the crowd at the Melbourne Park when she came from a set down to oust high flying fellow American Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff 6-7(5-7), 6-3, 6-0 to advance past the R16 for the 1st time ever.

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American counterparts, Gauff and Kenin

The Russian born American went even 1 step further with a 1st ever Grand Slam semifinal appearance when she defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals. The result seemed flattering but it didn’t depict the full story as Jabeur did stifle Kenin. The unseeded 25-year-old Tunisia was hitting her 1st serve at an average speed of 98mph and hit 5 aces past Kenin. However, she was let down by her own errors, 36 unforced errors one too many in contrast to Kenin’s 16.

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Kenin’s previous Majors

Ons Jabeur who had also made a name for herself by becoming the 1st ever Arab woman representative in a Grand Slam 4th round when she defeated Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 in 3rd round and then a 4th round 7-6(7-4), 6-1 victory over China’s Qiang Wang(27) to reach the quarterfinal.

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Ashleigh Barty vs Kenin at last year’s French Open

The mountain before the 21-year-old Kenin is the number 1 seed and homegirl, 23-year-old Barty who will most definitely enjoy the majority of the support at the Rod Laver Arena(having also become the 1st Australian to reach the semifinal in 36 years). Though the odds and h2h stats are against Kenin, a victory is not entirely impossible as Kenin pull a surprise 6-7(5-7), 6-3, 6-4 win over the Australian at the Rogers Cup, Toronto last August. Nevertheless, Barty still holds a 4-1 h2h win over Kenin, including a 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 4th round victory at Roland Garros last year.

Is another shocker in the making in the women’s draw? Tune in to AO semifinal to find out.

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Coco’s Stocks Continue To Rise.

America’s teenage sensation Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff staged another major upset in the ongoing 2020 Australia Open when she exerted a swift revenge on the 2-time Grand Slam champion and the defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka with a straight-sets 6-3, 6-4 win, to advance into the last 16.

The last Grand Slam encounter between these 2 ended in emotions that brought tears to eyes of both the loser(Gauff) and the winner(Osaka). Osaka had dispatched Gauff in straight-sets 6-3, 6-0 in R3 of the 2019 US Open but was full of admiration of her dejected opponent who was playing in only her 2nd Grand Slam then, having broken into the limelight a month earlier at Wimbledon where she defeated her Idol and 7-time Grand Slam champion, Venus Williams.

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Gauff-Osaka 2019 US Open

Naomi Osaka, on the other hand, has faced criticism in recent months for not being able to replicate the sort of form and finesse that saw her claim back-to-back Grand Slams(2018 US Open & 2019 Aus Open). It is easy to quickly forget that Osaka is only 22 years old, a pretty young age to be in such limelight and stardom, a circumstance she admitted got the better of her since her Aus Open triumph.

Coming into the 3rd round encounter against Osaka, Gauff had promised a more aggressive approach against the Japanese, she claimed she was nervous playing against Osaka for the 1st time about 6 months ago. True to her words, she was indeed aggressive this time and was on top of her game, sweeping past her opponent 6-3 in the 1st set in just 32 minutes.

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Gauff-Osaka 2020 Aus Open

Both players had held their serves until Gauff broke Osaka’s serve in game 8 of the 1st set to lead 5-3. Gauff would hold her nerves and serve to see out the set in game 9, 6-3.

Osaka’s dip in form was evident in the 1st set when she made 14 unforced errors in contrast to Gauff’s 8 and she was undone in game 7 of the deciding set when her serve was broken again, as she goes 3-4 down. Osaka broke Gauff’s serve in game 9 to make the scores 4-5 but it was little too late as the day belongs to Gauff who ran away with a 6-4 2nd-set win.

What is my life! Oh my gosh! Two years ago I lost first round in the Juniors and now I’m here, this is crazy!… – elated Coco Gauff.

As Coco Gauff stocks continue to rise, it’s only a matter of time before she bags her 1st Grand Slam title. Could it be this Australian Open? or Could it be any of the 4 Majors this season?

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Chelsea Blows Title Race Open In FA WSL

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Chelsea Women made a huge statement towards capturing her 3rd ever league title when she completed a season double on league title holder Arsenal Women, The Blues defeated The Gunners for the often time at their backyard Meadow Park 4-1 on Sunday, having also defeated the Gunners 2-1 at home Kingsmeadow in the reverse fixture last October. It is now 3 straight league defeat(1-4, 1-2 & 1-2) for the Gunners at the hand of their London rival.

While the majority of the football attention in the country is fixed on Liverpool Men winning the EPL title for the 1st time in 30 years, the Women league(FA Women Super League) hots up with 3 teams now justling for the title. League leader & 1-time champion Manchester City, title holder & 3-times champion Arsenal and 2018 champion & 2-times champion Chelsea are all having a run-in to the title with just 1 point separating the top 2 clubs from 3rd.

The Gunners whose only defeat of the season was to The Blues last October and has been in impeccable form since struggled to deal with Chelsea’s front 2 and were ran ragged within the 1st 20 minutes of the game, conceding 3 quick fired goals from Beth England(10′), Sam Karr(13′) & Sophie Ingle(20′). Guro Reiten(68′) completed the rout for Chelsea while Arsenal’s consolatory goal came through Bethany Mead(74′).

The Blues who had also handed Manchester City Women her only defeat of the campaign with a 2-1 win last December will be aiming to complete a double on The Citizens too as they lock horns in coming weeks(Feb 23rd).

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FA SWL

Arsenal Women are now level on points with Manchester City Women with 33 points each but have lost the top spot on inferior goal difference(Manchester City had earlier assumed top spot with a 2-0 win at Birmingham City Women). Chelsea Women, with a game in hand, have closed the points gap on both City and Arsenal to just 1 point. See full table.

Manchester United Women(4th) and Everton Women(5th), with 2 outstanding games at hand each, scored 3 goals in their respective fixtures(Man Utd 3-0 Spurs & Everton 3-1 Reading) to increase any slight hope of catching up with the runaway leaders.

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Londoners Falter In EPL Matchday 23

The not-so-good day for the London clubs began with an early kick-off when Spurs visited the resurgent Watford. The Hornets, under new manager, have been on the rise after a difficult start to the league but they have won 3 straight league matches and have been undefeated in 5 matches in all competitions. Tottenham, on the other hand, is still winless in her last 3 league matches and was without the “irreplaceable Harry Kane” (in Mourinho’s word) due to injury and the striker’s absence was evident at Vicarage Road as stand-in striker Lucas Moura fired straight at Ben Foster when put through on goal in a one-on-one with the Watford goalkeeper.

It could have been worse for Spurs as they conceded a 69th-minute spot-kick when defender Jan Vertonghen was adjudged to have handled in the box, however, Spurs goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga saved the resulting kick to earn his side a share of the spoils. The afternoon got frustrating for Spurs when Erik Lamela goal-bound effort was chopped off the line by Ignacio Pussetto at stoppage time to keep the scoreline at 0-0 after regulation time.

It’s now 4 straight league draws for Spurs and still 8th on the league table with 31 points, while Watford is momentarily out of the relegation zone on 17th with 23 points.

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Lacazette leads teammate’s frustration

It doesn’t get better for Spurs’ London rivals Arsenal as the Gunners were held 1 all by the impressive Sheffield United at the Emirate Stadium. The Gunners, just like Spurs, are playing without their captain and usual goal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who served the 1st of his 3-match ban on the day.

Teenage Brazilian striker Gabriel Martinelli, standing-in in place of Aubameyang gave Arsenal the lead on the stroke of half-time when he scored from close range after a square play from left-back Bukayo Saka.

However, as it has always been all season and over the past years, Arsenals weakness in defence let them down as Sheffield United got an 83rd-minute equalizer when John Fleck also scored from close range. The home side would feel hard done by when VAR denied them a spot-kick after Nicolas Pepe was brought down in the box, however, it wasn’t meant to be as the match ended 1-1.

Arsenal remains in 10th place on the log table with 29 points, 10 points adrift of 4th place and last UCL spot while Sheffield United is on 7th position with 33 points.

Best London performer of the day belongs to Crystal Palace as the Eagles threw more spanners into Manchester City wheel, Palace pegged back the champions to drew 2 all at the Etihad Stadium. The Eagles, who emerged victorious in this fixture last season, took a shock lead when on-loan Everton striker Cenk Tosun headed home at the back post in the 39th minute. VAR in play again to overturn a penalty kick called in favour of City. Nevertheless, City fought back and thought they’ve completed the comeback when they scored twice in the space of 5 minutes through you-know-who in the 82nd and 87th minute to give his side the lead. However, City’s defensive frailty cost them yet again, as make-shift centre-back Fernandinho conceded a late own-goal from Wilfred Zaha pressure to level score at 2-2 at full-time, as his side slipped further away from defending the league title for the 3rd season running.

Manchester City with 48 points is now 13 points adrift of the runaway leader Liverpool who has 2 games at hand. Crystal Palace retained her 9th place on the league table with 30 points.

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Frustrated West Ham Aaron Cresswell

East Londoner, West Ham were not left out in the disappointing afternoon after she relinquished her 1 nil lead to Everton to earn just a point. The Hammers under new manager David Moyes were hoping to make 3 wins in a row in all competitions, took the lead in the 40th minute when Issa Diop headed home Robert Snodgrass freekick, however, just 4 minutes later, it was all square as Dominic Calvert-Lewin replied for Everton with a header at the far post. A drab 2nd half followed as it ended 1-1 at the London Stadium.

Both team’s resurgence under new managers David Moyes and Carlo Ancelotti respectively continued as both managers were contented with the points shared. While Everton moved up to 11th on the table with 29 points, the same cannot be said of West Ham who is living dangerously close to the drop zone on 16th place with 23 points.

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Dejected Hudson Odoi

Chelsea will be the most aggrieved of all the London clubs as they could not make the most of their rivals slip off to consolidate on top 4 spots. The Blues, despite their control and possession of the game, left St James’ Park empty-handed, having conceded a late, deep-into-stoppage time header from Isaac Hayden, to lose the game 0-1 to Newcastle United.

With 70% possession of the ball, 10 corners and 19 total shots, Chelsea only managed 4 shots on target and they were made to rue their sloppiness in front of goal. Newcastle will feel fortunate with the win having seen so many players out on the treatment table. Few could have predicted a win for the Toon but with luck, a Tammy Abraham goal-bound effort was cleared off the goal line by Matt Ritchie just few moments before their winning goal came.

Newcastle has now moved up to 12th position on the log table with 29 points while Chelsea retained her 4th position with 39 points but dropped further ground on Leicester and City.

Other EPL results of the day include;

Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 1 Aston Villa

Norwich City 1 – 0 AFC Bournemouth

Southampton 2 – 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Thank you all for your time.

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Ibra Fired Blank On His Milan Homecoming Match

Zlatan Ibrahimovic could not inspire AC Milan to a win in his 2nd debut for the Milan giants as they played out a goalless draw to equally under-fire Sampdoria at the San Siro on Monday night. The 38-year-old Swedes re-signed a 6 months contract with the club he departed about 8 seasons ago after he helped the Rossoneri win the Serie A(Milan’s last major honour) in 2010-11 season.

AC Milan’s fall from serial title contender to the mid-table team has been shocking and unexpected. The managerial shake-ups over the years to bring back the glory days have been vast but unproductive yet. Despite having some of Europe most sort after strikers(Krzysztof Piatek, Hakan Calhanoglu etc) in their ranks this season, Milan has struggled to put the ball into the back of the opposition net, scoring a mere 16 goals in 18 league games, in contrast to the 24 goals they have conceded in those same matches.

The return of the Swede star was expected to be instant and immediate, even Ibrahimovic had hoped to score and “celebrate like a god” in front of the home crown. However, things sometimes don’t go according to plans, he(Ibrahimovic) was sub-in to replace Piatek in the 55th minute but could only muster a shot in the entire match as chances were cut short by Sampdoria, reiterating Milan’s lack of creativity in the midfield.

AC Milan is now in 12 places with 22 points on Serie A log table, 13 points off Champions League spot and 7 points off European spot, and with their goal difference(DF) into -8, they need to start winning and stacking the goals. Serie A full table.

Ibrahimovic will get his goal sooner or later, whether it will be enough to lift Milan into European qualifications or bring Cup glory remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain of the Swede star, he will surely make the headlines either on or off the pitch, Zlatan will always be Zlatan.

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Player-Coach! Wayne Rooney Opens Another Chapter Of His Illustrious Career.

Former England international Wayne Rooney began another chapter of his remarkable footballing career when he led his new championship team Derby County to a battling 2-1 win over Barnsley at the Pride Park Stadium on Thursday night.

It was a near-perfect debut the 34-year-old Rooney could hope for, having set up the opener with an inch-perfect freekick for teammate Jack Marriott(45′) to stab home and he(Rooney) was instrumental in the buildup to the winning goal having found, with his cross-field pass, another teammate Andre Wisdom at the by-line who in turn found Martyn Waghorn(57′) for the winner. A goal of his own would have made it a perfect debut for Rooney.

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Derby Manager P. Cocu & his apprentice W. Rooney

Wayne Rooney was playing his 1st competitive game since he departed the Major League Soccer at the end of the 2019 season two(2) months ago(October) and there was a concern from Manager Phillip Cocu and some fans and pundits whether Rooney was ready. Well, the former Manchester United(EPL) and DC United(MLS) answered his critics with not-the-vintage Rooney performance but a mature and majestic display.

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Playing in the centre of the midfield as a player-coach and captain of his side, Rooney made 3 quality deliveries into the opposition box, one of which resulted in the game’s opener. He(Rooney) made a handful of clean tackles, 1 shot at goal and 1 assist, a decent performance from a 34-year-old player if you ask me.

With the win, Derby County has recorded a back-to-back win for the 1st time this season, having followed up on Monday’s 2-1 win over Charlton Athletic. The team still remain in the bottom half of the Sky Bet Championship Table on 17th position with 33 points from 26 games played. See the full table

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Rolling back the years on Rooney’s numbers and contribution wherever he played. As a young Everton player between 2001-2004, Rooney played over 60 games(67) and scored more than a dozen(15 goals) during that time. It doesn’t include the 10 goals he scored in 31 league appearances during his return to Everton in 2017/18 season.

It was during Rooney’s Manchester United playing time that he became a household name, scoring 183 goals in 393 appearances for United, quite some numbers right there. Rooney’s 2 seasons with DC United was also impressive, having scored 23 goals in 48 appearances.

Age might not be on Wayne Rooney’s side any more, however, Derby County has acquired into their ranks a leader, a serial winner and with all hands on deck, Rooney’s presence in the team will definitely motivate the young lads in the team to great height and invariably benefit Derby County on the long run.

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Pay Back As Glasgow Rangers Won At Celtic Park

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.

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Alfredo Morelos

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).

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SPL League table

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

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Arsenal Women Still Hoisting The Club’s Banner.

Arsenal men’s team were yet again held to a disappointing barren draw by Everton on Saturday. Arsenal’s new manager Mikel Arteta can only watch helplessly from the stand, a glimpse of the difficult task before him. However, where the Arsenal men struggle and seem to be free-falling, the Arsenal Women have held their own so far, making true of the old saying;

what a man can do, a woman can do even better.

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Arsenal Women, last weekend prevailed where their men counterpart failed, they defeated Everton Women 3-1 to remain on top of the league. Two(2) goals from Arsenal Women top striker Vivianne Miedema(14′, 57′) and a further one from captain Kim Little(55′ pen) completed the routine win for the Gunners at the Merseyrail Community Stadium. Everton’s consolation goal came from Chloe Kelly(78′). Arsenal Women looking out for the men or should I rather say the women are showing the men how to get the job done.

In contrast to the Arsenal Men who had recorded just one(1) win in their last 12 matches across all competitions and lies 11th on the EPL league table with a mere 23 points from 18 matches, the Arsenal Women sit on top of the Women Super League with 27 points from 10 league games, 3 points ahead of arch-rival Manchester City Women. The Arsenal Women have also only lost once in the league(1-2 defeat at Chelsea) and are on a run if seven(7) straight win in all competitions, some solace for Arsenal fans, isnt it?

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Vivianne Miedema, Source

It could be recalled that the Women(Arsenal) earlier in the month recorded the biggest victory in the history of the WSL when they defeated Bristol City Women 11-1(the previous record was Liverpool’s 9-0 win over Doncaster Belles in 2013). Vivianne Miedema helped herself to six(6) goals in the 11-1 rout, she’s now on 14 goals and 7 assists with Chelsea’s Beth England her closest challenger on 6 goals and 3 assist. Looks like the Dutch forward is going to top the scoring chart for the 2nd successful season(having won the gong with 22 goals and 10 assists last season).

Arsenal Women looks like they are on the path of a successful defence of the league title, a probable 4th title since the inception of the WSL in 2010. However, having come 2nd just by the whisker last season, Manchester City Women will surely give the gunners a stern and biggest challenge.

A new manager is on board now to try and salvage whatever is left of the Arsenal Men’s team, though some critics and fans are not convinced that the Arsenal board had made the right choice in Mikel Arteta. Whatever the case may be, the men need motivation and the women are in the best place to show them their way back.

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Usman On Fire, Defended His Welterweight Title

Nigeria-born American Kamaru Usman(popularly known as the Nigerian Nightmare) defended his UFC Welterweight title by defeating and Knocking out countryman Colby Covington in round 5 of UFC 245 in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Referee Marc Goddard halted the bout in the 5th round and awarded the bout to Usman as TKO, Usman’s 14th straight MMA wins, 11 straight UFC wins.

There is no better way to settle grudges and bad blood than inside the ring or cage as it were. Usman and Covington’s feud was dated back to earlier in the year(February), just before the March 2 UFC 235( the bout that saw Kamaru Usman claimed the Welterweight title over Tyron Woodley). Both fighters used every opportunity they had including interviews and social media to taunt each other. Covington had reportedly referred to Usman as “Marty Fakenewsman”(it was said that “Marty” was the alias given to Usman during is amateur wrestling days, his high school coach found Usman’s 1st name “Kamarudeen” difficult to pronounce).

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Covington took a blow to the face

It was a close fight going into round 5 as both fighters had their moments. Covington dominated the early exchanges, hitting Usman with quick-fired left jabs and it continued way into round 2. However, Usman gained some momentum in the round, hitting Covington back with a combo of body shots. Usman continued that momentum into round 3 where he landed a lethal blow to Covington’s face, a blow that reportedly dislocated Covington’s jaw. Like a warrior, Covington went into round 4 with a bruised and bleeding face and stifled Usman, landing a couple of uppercuts.

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Colby Covington

The bout was so close going into the final round that the judge’s scorecards called it even, one of the judges scored 39-37 to Covington, another scored in favour of Usman 39-37 while the 3rd judge scored it a tie at 38 all. However, Usman rode his luck in the 5th and final round when he Covington grounded and rained down punches after punches on the former interim champion Covington. The referee halted the bout with few seconds left on the clock, to award a TKO victory to Usman.

Kamaru Usman is now on 16-1(W-L) record, his 11 straight UFC win is now the 2nd longest winning streak of the division in history, better only by George St-Pierre’s 12 straight wins. Colby Covington, on the other hand, saw his 7 straight wins halted and now stand at 15-2(W-L) record. Congratulations to Kamarudeen Usman.

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Phew! A Win For Arsenal At Long Last.

 

Phew! A Win For Arsenal At Long Last.

 
peman85 (33) in sports •  25 minutes ago
 
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Pepe leads Arsenal celebration

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.

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Dismissed Unai Emery

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.

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Interim manager Freddie Ljungberg

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.

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Celtic Claimed 10th Consecutive Trophy, They Are Still The Team To Beat In Scotland.

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.

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Neil Lennon and Steven Gerrard

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.

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Christopher Jullien

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.

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Pack It In City, League Title Slips Further Out Of Reach.

Manchester City dropped another vital point to a stubborn and resilient Newcastle United in the early kick-off of EPL matchday 14 on Saturday. The Citizens were held 2 all by the home side at the Saint James’ Park. Twice City took the lead, Raheem Sterling(22′) & K.De Bruyne(82′), Twice the Magpies hit back, Jetro Willems(25′) & Jojo Shelvey(88′).

It is one thing to successfully defend a title(2 titles in a row), a remarkable feat that Manchester City achieved when they piped Liverpool to the league title last season. However, it is another feat to defend a title back-to-back(3 titles in a row), an extraordinary feat that now seems some miles away from City’s grasp. Since the English league football was formed in 1888, only an elite group of 4 clubs have managed to win the league 3 times in a row, that includes Huddersfield Town(1923/24 – 25/26), Arsenal(1932/33 – 34/35), Liverpool(1981/82 – 83/84) and Manchester United(1998/99 – 2000/01 & 2006/07 – 2008/09).

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Dejected Pep Guardiola

Manchester City’s fading title charge might have been self-inflicted. The Citizens arrogantly refused to replace the retired long-serving defender Vincent Kompany in the summer transfer window and few weeks into the season, they were hit with injuries to 2 key defenders John Stones and Aymeric Laporte. The ripple effects are City’s inability to hold onto a lead which has already cost them 3 losses and 2 draws in just 14 league fixtures.

Newcastle is known as one of the boogie team in the league, they turn on when one least expect them to, especially against the traditional top 4-6 teams. The Magpies with all their inconsistencies this season had defeated Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United and on Saturday against Manchester City proved to be a hard nut to crack.

Steve Bruce’s tactic(5-4-1) on the day showed Newcastle’s intent of keeping City at bay. City still dominated the match proceedings with 77% of the possession, they fired 24 total shots(9 on target), a stark contrast to Newcastle’s 6 total shots(3 on target).

The draw means Manchester City(29 pts) is now 11 points adrift of rival and log leader Liverpool( who defeated Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 to hold onto top spot). City could found themselves in 3rd place(3 pts behind Leicester City ) if The Foxes win her matchday 14 fixture against Everton on Sunday.

Many may find it too early to write Manchester City off, however, with Liverpool grinding out wins week in, week out plus VAR calls seemingly going in their favour, it’s hard to see them relinquish the 11-point haul to City. If Manchester City does recover and close up the 11-point gap, it will be some story at the end of the season.

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Are Manchester United And Arsenal Really Rebuilding Or They are Going In Circles?

It is surprising to still hear fans and analysts saying that managers of Manchester United and Arsenal Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery deserve more time to build a title-challenging team. Both managers are into their 2nd seasons(Solskjaer a little lesser) yet there is no sign of improvement.

It seems to me that both United and Arsenal are taking a step forward and 2 steps backwards, considering how far Leicester City and Chelsea managers Brendan Rodgers and Frank Lampard respectively have come. Both Rodgers and Lampard are only about 4 months into their appointments but have incredibly held their own so far. Leicester sits aloft of Manchester City in 2nd position on EPL log table(only Manchester City could match Leicester 23 goal difference) while Chelsea also sits on 4th place, 7 points ahead of nearest challenger Wolverhampton Wanderers(5th).

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Elated Rodgers & Lampard

It is definitely safe to say Rodgers and Lampard are striving where Solskjaer and Emery are failing. Here is a couple of the games’ aspect that both Solskjaer and Emery are finding it difficult to emulate from Rodgers and Lampard.

Solskjaer and Emery just couldn’t strike the right balance between the young/academy graduates and the established senior players. Both managers know that the young players are crucial for rebuilding and obviously making efforts, however, it hasn’t worked out for them both. They just couldn’t win a match let alone put together a winning streak. In contrast to Rodgers and Lampard, both have managed to strike a balance between the young and old, especially the core of young English players. The likes of Harvey Barnes(21yrs) & Ben Chilwell(22yrs) alongside James Maddison(23yrs) have become an integral part of Leicester City team. Also, Tammy Abraham(22yrs), Mason Mount(20yrs), Callum Hudson-Odoi(19yrs) and Fikayo Tomori(21yrs) are now a regular starter for Chelsea, promising future for the English National Team if i may add.

Wrong tactics, wrong lineup or wrong substitution is another vital area that has affected United and Arsenal. Solskjaer for some reason known to only him included Phil Jones(who has not had much playing time this season) in the lineup against Sheffield United and the result was an abysmal display for the English defender. He was chopped out at the half time. Emery, on the other hand, seems confused about the formation-players to use in each match. The 2-2 draw against Southampton saw him deployed Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney(who best play as full-backs) at wingbacks in a 3-4-3 formation. The result was another poor display from the Gunners especially in the attack where they managed a mere 5 shots on target from 7 overall shots, in contrast to their visitor who managed 17 total shots and hit 6 on target.

Arsenal sits on 8th place on the table with 18 points and an unusual -1 goal difference while Manchester United is further down the ladder on 9th with 17 points and 4 goal difference. Something has to shift and fast, it is either both managers start bringing the desired results or the clubs’ management take a bold step, cut their losses and replace Solskaer and Emery now and not wait till the end of the season, it could be far much worse by then.

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Mourinho Got Off To A Winning Start, Just By The Whisker.

Tottenham Hotspur new manager Jose Mourinho began in his new role with a 3-2 win away at West Ham. It was a much-expected debut victory for the once self-acclaim special one. A win many are already claiming will spin Spurs’ season to a new height.

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Spurs fans

Spurs’ week is what some people will exclaim and say, “heck of a week”. The football community was rocked by the news of Mauricio Pochettino’s sack and while many would say it was long coming, nobody saw the immediate appointment of Jose Mourinho coming. The Portuguese wasted little time to do what he does best, a passionate, fan-winning press release where he promised to bring back the passion to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I believe a few will doubt Mourinho’s promise.

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Spurs players celebrating

It was a start Mou would have dreamt off. Two(2) second-half goals from Son Heung-Min(36′) and Lucas Moura(43′) put Spurs on the winning path. Harry Kane added the 3rd with his customary header kn the 49th minute to make 3 nil. However, Spurs took their feet off the pedal and West Ham almost made them pay. Substitute Michail Antonio pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute. The host thought they have further reduced the deficit in the 89th minute but their joy was short-lived as it was ruled offside by VAR. West Ham finally made it 2-3 in additional time (90′ + 6′) by defender Angelo Ogbonna but it was too little too late.

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Typical of Mou

The victory was Spurs 1st away win since January 20th when they defeated Fulham at Craven Cottage, it was a feat Mou will certainly enjoy. Manual Pellegrini, on the other hand, is living dangerously as his West Ham side has now lost 3 league games in a row, and 5 losses in 6 league games. The Londoners who sat at 7th position on the log table at some point have now slipped into the bottom side of the table 16th. One(1) more defeat and she might find herself in the relegation zone. I don’t think David Sullivan and David Gold will spare the hammer on Pellegrini if results do not improve.

With the win, Jose Mourinho has emulated his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino in defeating West Ham in the very 1st game in charge of Spurs.

Mourinho will now have his hands full in Spurs next 5 games in all competitions. Spurs host Olympiakos in the UCL come Tuesday and then host Bournemouth in the league 4 days later. A trip to Mourinho’s last employer Manchester United soon follows in what promises to be a humdinger of a fixture. Burnley(EPL) and Bayern Munich(UCL) complete the next 5 fixtures respectively.

Is the Special one back or it’s just a false alarm?

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Emery Clearly Not The Man To Steer Arsenal Forward.

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).

Arsenal’s last 4 league results now read

0-2 loss at Leicester City

1-1 draw at home to Wolverhampton

2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace

0-1 loss at Sheffield United

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Jubilant Vardy and teammate

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.

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Congratulations To Murray

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.

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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.

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The Bloody Red Rivalry, Solskjaer’s Job Couldn’t Get Any Daunting.

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.

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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.

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Rangers Keeping Up The Pace With Celtic In The Scottish Premiership, Review.

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.

ST MIRREN 0-1 RANGERS;

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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 3-1 HEARTS;

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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.


Blog cross-posted from Scorum


Thank you all for your time.

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Barcelona Braces Up For La Liga Title Defence, Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Preview.

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

Prediction:

With so much firepower within the Barcelona ranks, one can not be faulted for opting for a Barcelona win, Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Barcelona.

Blog crossposted. 

So, Folks, sit back and enjoy the Spanish Premera League. Thank you all.

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No Rooney, No Trouble For D.C.United, MLS Review.

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.

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Stats

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.

Carlos Vella Still On Top Of His Game For LAFC:

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Vela

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.

This review was made on SportDapp SCORUM

Thank you all for your time.

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How The 3 Promoted Teams Fared In The Opening Fixtures Of The EPL, Review.

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:

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Dejected Villa players, Source.

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:

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Disappointed Norwich players, Source.

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:

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Elated Billy Sharp and teammates, Source.

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.

Observation:

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.

ps: You can find this post on Sport Dapp SCORUM

Thank you all for your time.

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Liverpool-Norwich Raises Curtain On 2019/20 EPL Season: Preview!

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.

Prediction:

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.

Liverpool 3-0 Norwich City is my prediction.

Blog was made to my SCORUM ACCOUNT

The EPL is back and other European leagues are around the corner, soccer lovers can sit back and enjoy the Thrills and Spills of the new footballing season, Y’all have an exciting season. Thanks.

 
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Can Newcastle-Arsenal Produce Another Classic Encounter In Sunday’s EPL Opening Round Tie?

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.

PREDICTION:

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.

Ps: Blog cross-posted across platforms under my name.

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EFL Season Is Back With A Bang! League Opener Saw a 6-Goal Thriller.

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:

League Champion

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

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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.

ps: find post across blogging platforms under my ID

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Vela Leading LAFC’s MLS Charge For Glory

Vela celebrates with teammates

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.

ps: blog was cross-posted across other platforms. 

Thank you all for your time.

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Leading Hedge Fund Says Bitcoin and Crypto Will Benefit From ‘Large Net Positive Effect’ Via Libra

The crypto and blockchain hedge fund Pantera Capital says it believes Facebook’s Libra will have a “large net positive effect on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.”

In a new investment letter, Pantera CEO Dan Morehead says Facebook’s effort is an impressive attempt to create a stable digital asset.

“I am particularly impressed with the SDR-type basket the Facebook team decided on to back the tokens. It’s not wildly fluctuating, nor is it pegged to a single country’s currency. Libra will be fully collateralized with four of the oldest, most stable currencies:  the U.S. dollar, the British pound, the Euro, and the Japanese yen.”

Detractors, however, point out that Libra is backed by powerful companies, merely displacing centralized financial services that are in the hands of the banking elite with similar services shifting into the hands of big tech.

Despite the intense scrutiny surrounding Libra, Pantera points to Facebook’s global reach as a core strength of the project which it equates with a similar effort made by the International Monetary Fund 50 years ago.

“The IMF created Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) as an international reserve currency in 1969. (This year is the 50th anniversary of the SDR.)  It comprises a basket of fiat currencies weighted by relative importance within the world’s trading and financial systems. However, it never really was used because nobody could transact in it. Libra is designed to be used.”

According to Pantera, Libra also addresses complaints about US dollar hegemony by offering a solution that pushes the global financial system trajectory towards a more inclusive and technologically advanced system.

“We believe that the launch of Libra will have a large net positive effect on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Increased competition will breed the strongest networks that provide real benefits to society – there isn’t one right way to achieve this. Just as cryptocurrency may be the next evolution in finance, there will be evolutions within cryptocurrency itself. The approach described in the Libra whitepaper walks a tightrope between two extremes – and potentially creates the best of both worlds.blank

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Contrasting Fortunes For British Teams At The Ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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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A Winning Start For The Host In The 2019 Copa America

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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The Golden State Warriors Dethroned By Toronto Raptors

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.

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Drake leading the Raptors celebration

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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Nigeria Super Falcons Put Her World Cup Campaign Back On Track.

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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Long Reign Nadal As He Won His 12th Roland Garros Title.

Rafael Nadal became the 1st tennis player to win the same Grand Slam title 12 times, 1 better of Americas Margeret Court, when he swept aside Austrian, Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in just over 3 hours on Sunday afternoon. Nadal was in business, as usual, taking the 1st set, but Thiem who has never taken a Grand Slam set over Nadal, broke the hoodoo to take the 2nd set. However, in his response, the king of clay stormed through the next 2 sets to claim his 18th Grand Slam total, 2-titles shy of Roger Federer’s 20.

Going into the final, Nadal led Thiem 8-4 on head-to-head series, however, all 4 Thiem’s victories had come from clay surface; 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7-4) at 2016 Buenos Aires, 2017 6-4, 6-3 Rome Masters win, 2018 Madrid Masters’ 7-5, 6-3 win and last April’s 6-4, 6-4 triumph at Barcelona. Thiem had, however, lost all 3 previous meetings against Nadal at Roland Garros in straight sets, and was once again taken to the cleaners by Nadal.

NADAL, THIEM RESPECTIVE SEMIFINAL VICTORIES;

The King of Clay got his record-extending 12th title aim in pole position with a crushing dispatched of great rival, Roger Federer. Nadal was in fine form in a straight set 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 under a stormy weather condition at the Court Philippe-Chatrier. It was the 39th Nadal-Federer clash, with Nadal now claimed 24 wins over Federer’s 15 wins. The straight set Nadal victory didn’t portray the fight put on by Federer, it was one of his best display against Nadal on clay, matching the Spaniard ace for ace(3-3), 61% 1st serve win percentage, just better by Nadal’s 69%, however, Federer was largely let down by unforced errors, 34 of them against Nadal’s 19. Federer has now lost 6 French Open meetings that include 4 finals against Nadal, 14 in total on clay surface, won just 2.


4th seeds, Dominic Thiem held his nerves to upstage world number 1 and number 1 seed, Novak Djokovic, in a breathtaking, rain interrupted, 2nd semifinal that lasted 2 days, totalling 4 hours and 19 minutes. Thiem won the 5 sets thriller by 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to reach the French Open final in the 2nd successive year, where he set up the clash with Nadal in a repeat of last year final, which Nadal emerged victorious in 3 straight sets. Djokovic was aiming to become only the 2nd man after Rod Laver to win all 4 Grand Slam simultaneously twice, but that dream was scuppered by an equally ambitious Austrian whom many believe to have secured a Grand Slam title at 25 years old( Nadal, Djokovic and Federer secured their 1st Grand Slam title at the age of 19, 21 and 22 respectively). A dramatic see-saw contest saw both men took a set each before play was suspended due to rain for the 2nd time with Thiem leading the set(3rd) 3-1. The Austrian managed to hold off a Djokovic fight-back after play resumption to win 7-5. Nevertheless, the momentum had shifted unto Djokovic’s favour has the Serb took the 4th set 7-5 to force a deciding 5th set. Advantage Thiem, as he raced into 4-1 in the 5th set, but play was suspended for the often time due to downpour, however, Thiem would not be denied a place in Sunday’s final as he wrapped up the set 7-5, to win 3 sets to Djokovic’s 2.


Dominic Thiem can take solace in the fact that age is no longer on Nadal’s side, sooner or later, if he continues to play at this level, he will surely take over the mantle from the king of clay, as he is widely seen as the successor to Nadal, but for now, he can either wait out Nadal’s reign or be the man to end it.

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The 2019 Roland Garros Has A New Queen.

The 2019 French Open has a 1st-time women’s winner, 23-year-old Australian, Ashleigh Barty was crowned the champion on Saturday afternoon at the Court Philippe-Chatrier after a crushing defeat of Czech’s 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3 in straight set in just over an hour. With her victory, Barty now became the 1st Australia Grand Slam winner since Samantha Stosur’s triumph in the 2011 US Open and the 1st French Open winner since Margaret Court won the 1973 French Open title.

Prior to the final, Barty and Vondrousova had played each other just 2 times at Masters tournament, with Barty winning both, the 2017 7-5, 7-6(7-1) Birmingham win, and 2018 6-3, 7-5 Cincinnati triumph. However, those Barty wins were on hard and grass surfaces and not clay, she has now added a clay victory over her opponent.

Barty’s triumph means she will now be the new World number 2 ranked women player when the rankings are updated. Vondrousova was aiming to become the 1st teenage champion at Roland Garros since Iva Majoli of Switzerland won the crown in 1997, but it wasn’t to be.

Ashleigh Barty’s run to the French Open final include;

Ashleigh Barty had never played in any Grand Slam semifinal before, her last campaign in 2018 French open-ended in a round of 64 loss to Serena Williams, Barty battled past teenage-star, Americas 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who also created an upset in the quarterfinal by knocking out the tournament’s defending champion, 3rd seed Simona Halep in straight sets. Barry raced to a 5-0 lead against Amanda in the 1st set but surprisingly lose the set 6-7(4-7), but the Australian fought back to take the next 2 sets 6-3, 6-3 to reach her 1st ever Grand Slam final, the 1st Australian to play in the French Open final since Samantha Stosur lost the 2010 final 6-4, 7-6(7-2) to Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

Other wins are;

• R128: 6-3, 6-3 win over Jessica Pegula(USA)

• R64: 7-5, 6-1 win over Danielle Rose Collins(USA)

• R32: 6-3, 6-1 win over Andrea Petkovic(GER)

• R16: 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 win over Sofia Kenin(USA)

• R8: 6-3, 7-5 win over Madison Keys(USA)

Safe to say Barty is responsible for the elimination of the majority of Americas players.

Marketa Vondrousova’s run to the final include;

Like Barty, Czech’s Marketa Vondrousova had never played in any Grand Slam semifinals before her Friday triumph over Konta, her last year’s French Open ended right from matchday 1, a 1st round loss to Ana Bogdan of Romania, however, just a year on, Vondrousova is playing at the biggest stage of her career. She defeated new favorite, British number 1, Johanna Konta in a surprising 7-5, 7-6(7-2) straight sets, to set up a final with Barty. Konta has been playing some great tennis all tournament and was expected to be in the final with all the top seeds in her half has been eliminated, but either she let herself down when it mattered most or her opponent, who had not to drop a single set all tournament was just too strong for her. Sweet revenge for Vondrousova who lost to Konta at the Rome Masters last month.

Other wins are;

• R128: 6-4, 6-3 win over Yafan Wang(CHN)

• R64: 6-4, 6-0 win over Anastasia Potapova(RUS)

• R32: 6-4, 6-4 win over Carla Suarez Navarro(SPA)

• R16: 6-2, 6-0 win over Anastasija Sevastova(LAT)

• R8: 7-6(7-1), 7-5 win over Petra Martic(CRO)

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Errors Cost England Euro Nation’s League Final.

The 3 Lions of England had hoped to play in the Maiden Euro Nation League final, but their hope was dashed after losing 1-3 to the resurgence Orange Boys of the Netherland. The Portuguese midfielder, Bernando Silva had hope for a Portugal-England final, a chance to play against familiar English lad faces but it wasn’t to be as Portugal will play Netherland instead in the final at the Estadio Do Dragao, Porto.

England was the architect of their own woes as 2 sloppy defending from John Stone and Ross Barkley cost them victory, having to take a 1st half lead only to relinquish the lead late on and then lose out completely on a disappointing fashion.

Most of the pre-match news in the English camp was the fitness of their captain and striker Harry Kane, the Englishman was rushed from injury to play for his Tottenham team in the UCL final against Liverpool, but he was largely ineffective in the 0-2 Spurs loss. So, it was understandably when England Boss, Gareth Southgate started Kane from the bench and opted for the young trio of Jaden Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling in England’s front 3 line up.


Rashford justified his inclusion in the line up when he won and converted a 32nd-minute spot-kick against the run of play, having been brought down by Dutch’s young central defender, Matthijs De Ligt. England held on to the lead going into the half-time break. The 2nd half started, and it was the Dutch side probing for an equalizer, which they eventually got. De Ligt made amends for his conceded spot-kick when he rose highest in the 73rd minute to nod home teammate, Memphis Depay’s corner kick to leveled scores at 1 all. With no further legitimate goal in the regulation time, the match was forced into an additional 30 extra minutes.

It was barely 7 minutes into the extra time(97 min) when Netherland went into the lead, a careless and nerve play by England’s defender, John Stone and he was robbed off the ball by Depay whos initial effort on goal was saved by England Jordan Pickford in goal, but it was rebound into the net through un-rushing Kyle Walker in an attempt to block Dutch’s Quincy Promes. Netherland sealed their victory with 6 minutes to play of the extra time, England midfielder, Ross Barkley this time was dispossessed in the area as he dwelled too long on the ball, Depay once again the fox in the box who squared yo teammate Promes to tuck home, 3-1 is finished, as the Dutch’s good run continues.


MATCH TALKING POINTS:

• Marcus Rashford was sub-off for Harry Kane at half-time after picking up an injury, and the substitution may have snuffed the fire out of England’s attack as Kane was once again ineffective.

• criticized style of play was criticized at some quarters, with no real, talented ball-playing, deep-lying midfielder to call on, playing from the back is always going to be a delicate style, and it proved costly as 2 errors from trying to build attack resulted in Netherland’s winning goals. However, England Manager, Southgate reiterated that he will not abandon the style, that his team got to the Nation League final playing from the back.

• VAR was in the radar yet again, as England’s goal through Jesse Lingard was chopped off for a fractional offside, a good call from the Dutch point of view, I doubt if England agrees with the call.


England will now play Switzerland in the 3rd & 4th place play-off tie while the host, Portugal slug it out with the Netherland, both matches on coming Sunday.

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AJ Savaged By Wilder, Adding Salt To His Injury.

Anthony Joshua may have pocketed an estimated $25M from his bout with Andy Ruiz Jnr, but what he earned in money, he lost in prestige and pride, he is no longer ‘the undefeated heavyweight champion’. And Guess who was lurking in the corner, waiting to pounce via twitter? you guessed right, Deontay Wilder!

Fierce rival and WBC champion, Wilder took to Twitter to bare his mind.

he wasn’t a true champion, his whole career consisted of lies, contradictions, and gifts, … facts and now we know who was running from who – Wilder

What a humiliating troll coming from Wilder. AJ-Wilder has been involved in harsh words and trash talks down the years, it could be recalled that AJ once criticized both Wilder and Fury for ducking him, he also said that both were fighting ‘cab drivers and binmen’, so, this latest tweet from Wilder couldn’t be more savage.

Former heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury was surprisingly subtle with his tweet,

we have our back and forth but @anthonyjoshua changed his stars through life, heavyweight boxing, these things happen, rest up, recover, regroup and come again – Fury

Prior to the bout against Andy Ruiz, majority of boxing fans across the world had criticized AJ’s choice of Ruiz, they had referred to the bout as AJ aiming for another easy KO under his belt, a more competitive and blockbuster fight with any of Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury or Dillian Whyte would have satisfied boxing fans. However, what ensued at the Madison Square Garden caught everyone by surprise, It was a case of everything to lose for AJ and absolutely nothing to lose for Ruiz, and the Mexican sure grabbed the opportunity that was presented to him with both gloves.

We could quickly jump to the conclusion that AJ underrated his opponent, however, some of AJ’s pre-bout comments suggested otherwise,

Ruiz is a more sound, well-balanced, feet underneath him and little head movement, … he’s got confidence in his ability that he can kind of counterpunch, … he’s not afraid to throw punches – AJ

Or, was the bout thrown? because I’ve heard some friends insinuating a match-fixing. I personally don’t think AJ will agree to lose to Andy Ruiz Jnr, not by a long shot.

So, how did a champion that had never been floored since he became a champion kiss the canvas 4 times in 7 rounds? Some reports had claimed that AJ’s trouble started in the 3rd round when he was caught clean on the head by Ruiz left hook, a devastating punch that got AJ on the floor for the 1st time in quite a while. Reports had it that AJ started asking his corner a sequence of confusing questions,

•what shot was it?
•what round was it?
•why am i feeling like this?

one shot on top of the dome kind of rattled me a little bit – said AJ

This shocking upset can be likened to an upset in April 2001 when Champion Lennox Lewis lost his belts to an underdog, Hasim Rahman in a 5th-round KO. Also, Lewis had in 1994 lost to an unfancied Oliver McCall in a 2nd-round KO. We couldn’t also forget the Iron Mike Tyson lost his titles in a 10th-round KO to Buster Douglas in 1990. Anthony Joshua’s name will be added in the history book among champions that lost to an underdog.

AJ needs to ignore all the internet trolls and focus on the rematch, someone once said;

The only thing more frustrating than slanderers is those foolish enough to listen to them. – Chris Jammi

He certainly got more than he’d hoped for, however, a convincing KO of Andy Ruiz in the rematch come November-December will somewhat repair his dented status and pride but it cannot erase the historical defeat to the Mexican, Andy Ruiz Jnr.

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Dream Semi-Final Draw As The King Of Clay Plays A Familiar Foe, The Swiss Maestro.

The 2019 French Open has 1 leg into the semi-final, with the remainder of the quarter-final to be decided on Wednesday, and what a dream tie we have in our hands. It’s almost 2 years since tennis witness a Federer-Nadal matchup, both men were supposed to meet earlier this year at the Indian Wells but Nadal pulled out due to injury for a Federer walk over. However, barring an unlikely injury to either man, they will slug it out in the 1st semi-final tie for a place in this year’s French Open final.


Having won his round of 16 ties in an emphatic 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Argentine Leonardo Mayer, Federer set up a tantalizing draw with his countryman, Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka had before at this stage of the tournament in 2015 upset Federer, however, he couldn’t repeat that feat, as the Swiss maestro h2h 22-win advantage over Wawrinka’s 3, proved too much. Federer showed resilience to overcome his compatriot Stan Wawrinka in his quarter-final tie for the 1st time on clay, dropping a set in the process for the 1st time in this year’s tournament,7-6(7-4), 4-6, 7-6(7-5), 6-4, a keenly contested tie with 2 tiebreakers.


Defending French Open champion and 2nd seed, Rafael Nadal’s road to the last 8 was a swift round-of-16 dispatched of Argentine Juan Ignacio 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 to set up a potential banana draw with the 7th seed, Japanese Kei Nishikori in the last 8. It was the Spaniard’s 90th victory at Roland Garros, and his 13 times in the quarter-finals, Nadal has won all the French Open final he’s played in(11 titles). Nadal’s dominance over Nishikori down the years(winning 10 out of 12) suggests a straight win for the Spaniard, and so it proved to be. The Spaniard showed class and superiority, as he was too strong for Kei Nishikori, he won 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 to keep alive his dream of record extending 12th French Open titles. Nishikori clearly has not fully recovered from his 5-set thrillers in both the rounds of 32 & 16 respectively, as he labour all evening.


Federer had only managed 2 victories on clay over Nadal, none of which was a Grand Slam tie. The 2007 ATP 1000 Hamburg Master and 2009 Madrid Masters were Federer’s clay surface victory over the King of clay. Nadal head and shoulder above Federer on head-to-head meetings won 23 compared to Federer’s 15 across all tournaments. Another Nadal triumph is highly on the card.

The Remaining Quarter-Final Draws Includes;

Novak Djokovic(1) vs Alexander Zverev(5),

Dominic Thiem(4) vs Karen Khachanov(10),

French Open top seed and world number 1 ranked player, Novak Djokovic claimed his place in the last 8 with a comfortable, straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. The Serb became the 1st man to reach the last 8 in 10-straight French Open tournaments, as he continues his bid to win all 4 Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the 2nd time having achieved it at 1st when he won the 2016 French Open to complete all 4 Grand Slams. Djokovic has not dropped a single set in the tournament, he will have his hands full against another German, this time 5th seed Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals. Zverev came from a set down to lead 2 sets to 1 before he eventually won the deciding set on a tiebreaker against the 9th seed, Italia Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(7-5). Both Djokovic and Zverev had not yet met at a Grand Slam before but had met 4 times in ATP Masters events, winning 2 apiece, with Zverev coming atop in the only clay surface meeting, the 2017 Rome Masters.


The last quarter-final tie paired Austrian and 4th seed, Dominic Thiem up with Russian Karen Khachanov. Thiem reaches the last 8 with a straight set 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over last home hopeful, Gael Monfils. Khachanov, on the other hand, had a much tougher round of 16 wins over 8 seed and Argentinean Martin Del Potro, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to reach his 1st ever Grand Slam quarter-finals. Thiem-Khachanov arguably is by far the most even of all the quarter-final matchups. The pair had only met once, the 2018 Paris Masters, with Khachanov emerging victorious in straight sets.


Who are you rooting for to make the final? I’d rather sit on the fence, but if my back is pushed against the wall, I’ll pick a Djokovic-Nadal final

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Give It Up For The Swede Maestro For A Stunning Overhead Kick.

I recently blogged about the bad and ugly of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, well, the Swede star comes with plenty of goodies too, his latest goal proved so. Whatever side you are, his fan, hater or a neutral, we all disagree to agree that Ibrahimovic will always be a genius. His stunning overhead kick couldn’t rescue a point for his Los Angeles Galaxy(LAG) team on Sunday night though but it highlighted the skills the Swedes possess even at age 37.

LAG seems to have turned the corner with a back-to-back league wins after a torrid May in which they lost 4-straight matches. New England Revolution(NER) tie was supposed to be a routine home win for LAG over a team struggling to get a win, with 2 draws and a loss in their past 3 matches, but LAG was brought crashing down to earth by the NER.

If there was one thing that is certain in any LAG-NER tie? It is goals, there is no shortage of goals whenever these 2 clubs meet, the last 5 ties between them had produced 25 goals, an average of 5 goals per match and this latest tie wasn’t an exception.

Check his goal out below;

Check goal here;

As expected, LAG dominated their visitor from the start, however, they couldn’t break down NER defence, LAG were kept at bay by NER, managed just 2 shots on target out of a total of 14 shots compared to NER who managed 16 shots and fired 7 on target. The visitors made their intention known as early as the 7th minute with the 1st attempt of the night, Cristian Penilla tested LAG’s goalkeeper, David Bingham, but the goalkeeper was well placed to save Penilla’s left-footed shot. It took about half an hour before LAG had their 1st shot at NER’s goal, Ibrahimovic saw his effort well saved by NER’s goalkeeper, Brad Knighton. It was a personal duel between LAG goalkeeper, Bingham and NER’s winger, Penilla, as the latter’s efforts in double quick succession in the 43rd minute were saved by Bingham. Penilla had the last laugh though, just before the half time break(45 min), his left-footed shot from a Carles Gil’s assist finally beat Bingham as the half ended 1 nil in NER’s favour.

Penilla-Bingham duel soon began after the restart, It took another good save from Bingham to deny Penilla in the 57th minute. However, Bingham was beaten again in the 60th minute, as NER doubled their lead, Carles Gil 2nd assist on the night found Teal Bunbury who fired home. Ibrahimovic will not be denied his moment of brilliance in the 84th minute though, a long throw-in was knocked down in the box for the Swedes, who did well to gain control of the ball before scoring a delightful overhead kick. LAG should have gotten their equalizer in the added time of the full regulation period(90+7 min), unfortunately, Diego Polenta’s shot hit the crossbar rather than go in. It ended in favour of the away side, 2-1 to New England Revolution and a 3rd-straight home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

I have a feeling Zlatan Ibrahimovic will always hit the tabloids even after he eventually hangs his boot, the GOOD,the bad and the ugly of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

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Roland Garros: More Upsets In The Women’s Draw

2019 Roland Garros has already seen the mighty fallen by the roadside as a host of high profile women’s names have been eliminated as early as the 3rd round. 1st round casualties that include world number 5, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams are now joined on the sideline by world number 1, 2, and 4, Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Kiki Bertens respectively, and 23-times grand slam winner, Serena Williams.

Serena Williams bowed out of the French Open in a disappointing 2-6, 5-7 straight set loss to the unseeded countrywoman, Americas Sofia Kenin in the 3rd round. The last time Serena failed to go past the 3rd round in a grand slam tournament was in 2014 Wimbledon where she lost to France’s Alize Cornet in 3 sets. Serena came into the French Open lacking game fitness, having retired after the 1 round of the Indian Wells, Miami and Rome masters respectively because of a recurring knee injury and it was evident in her 1st round come-from-behind 2 sets to 1 win in her 1 round tie at the on-going Roland Garros. Though her 2 round tie was a straight-set win over an unseeded Japanese, Kurumi Nara, she was far from her dominant best, her defeat to Kenin reiterated her below-par performances in the tournament. With age not on Serena’s side, the 37-year-old quest for 1 more grand slam is highly unlikely.

Taking nothing away from Kenin, she showed courage against 1 of best female player ever. At some point, Kenin was not just playing against Serena, but against the crowd who were rooting for a Serena victory, but she held her nerves and showed composure to win the deciding 2nd set by a tie-breaker 7-5, and reach her 1st ever grand slam 4th round.

World number 2, Czech’s Karolina Pliskova was also booted out in the 3rd round of Roland Garros. The Czech lost 3-6, 3-6 in straight sets to Croatia’s Petra Martic. The 27-year-old Pliskova fared better coming into the French Open with the Rome master triumph, and then followed the Rome master win with a dominant 1st round dispatched of Americas Madison Brengle in her Roland Garros opener. A 2nd round 6-2, 6-2 win over Slovakia’s Kristina Kicova soon followed, her defeat to Martic came as a shock judging by her form in recent days. 

Following after the World number 2 exit was world number 1, Japanese Naomi Osaka. the 21-years-old’s quest for a 3rd straight grand slam hit a halt when she went down 4-6, 2-6 in a straight sets loss to Czech’s Katerina Siniakova. With no clay court title to her name and a poor run in the pre-French open tournaments(masters), she struggled with the demands of the clay surface. The double grand slam winner again loses the 1st set 4-6 like she did lose her 1st sets in her previous round of 128 and 64 respectively. Her luck ran out this time against Siniakova as she could not fight back as she did in those 2 previous round. It seemed like the mounting pressure of success is beginning to weigh Osaka down, her play was uncharacteristically characterized with an unforced error, 38 of them on the day, she said afterwards,

I just feel like there has been a weight on me, kind of – Osaka

Osaka’s conqueror, Siniakova admitted that Osaka wasn’t in her usual self, the 2-times grand slam doubles winner(2018 French & Wimbledon) said,

I could see that she’s not so confident like she was

The Japanese will not be winning a 3rd-straight grand slam but she sure will come back strong in next grand slam in the UK later in the year.

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Joshua-Wilder Bout Might Never See The Light Of The Day With Joshua’s Shocking Loss To Ruiz.

If there was any bout that the whole world has been clamouring and waiting for? it’s Joshua-Wilder unification bout, with Joshua-Fury & Joshua-Whyte also popular demands, unfortunately, those blockbuster bouts might forever be just a dream with the shocking defeat of Anthony Joshua by an unfancied Mexican-American, The Brit will now focus on a rematch rather than a bout with Wilder, Fury or even Whyte.

There was a major upset in the Heavyweight division of world boxing when Mexican-American, Andy Ruiz Jnr knocked out the world IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO champion, Anthony Joshua in the 7th round on Saturday night at the Madison Square Garden, United State America. AJ as Joshua is fondly called opted to fight Andy Ruiz jnr after the initial challenger, Jarrell Miller of the USA failed a drug test.

The matchup was tagged a mismatch by most pundit as AJ poses the bigger man and of course, the world champion is undefeated at 29, 0, KOs 21. However, Ruiz rules his world too, 1 solitary defeat in his 33 career bout(32, 1, KOs 21), he is no pushover.

ROUND 1 & 2: The early minutes of the 1st round was cagey as AJ circled the ring and kept Ruiz at bay with his longer reach and jabs. Ruiz, on the other hand, though looked nervous at first, but soon got his act together and started probing AJ as the round eased out. An Improved 2nd round for AJ as he landed a couple of shots on Ruiz coupled with a few body shots, but the Mexican landed his own hook too. The round ended with AJ slightly edging on the scorecard.

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a clean hit by Ruiz

ROUND 3: The ring was ignited in the 3rd round as the crowd watched on in awe at the Madison Square Garden as AJ landed hook combos that sent Ruiz to the canvass, surprisingly, Ruiz got up on his feet to send the champion to the floor too with his quick combos. AJ beat the count at 8 to his feet, wobbling! as Ruiz fancied his chance and went for the jugular and had AJ back on the floor moments later, AJ regained his feet and was rescued by the bell as the round ended.

ROUND 4 & 5: The 4th round was more of a recovery round for both boxers they caught their breaths from an explosive 3rd round, with AJ the more shaken boxer. A relatively quiet round it was. AJ looked to have fully recovered by now and slightly edged the 5th round with a couple of both left and right hooks but Ruiz seems unrattled.

ROUND 6: This round is all about Ruiz, as he took the ascendances with a swift left hook on AJ, he soon followed up with a combination of body shots. AJ got a counter hook though but Ruiz was unfazed as he pushed AJ backing up on his heels. An entertaining 6 round that set up what was to come in the 7th round.

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Joshua hit the floor

ROUND 7: The round started in style, AJ sprung an attack on Ruiz with a left hook, shockingly, Ruiz

counterattack and sent the champion to the floor at his own corner, for the 3rd time in the bout. The champion scrambled to his feet and staged an attack again, but Ruiz, fully in charge now, sent AJ back to the canvass for the 4th time, and this time, the referee had seen enough and wave the bout over, a TKO victory in favour of Ruiz.

Andy Ruiz jnr had inflicted AJ’s 1st knockdown since his heavyweight victory over Wladimir Klitschko and his 1st ever defeat in 30 career bout(29, 1, KOs 21). According to CompuBox, Joshua was outpunched by Ruiz 47 to 56. AJ and his camp immediately signalled to exercise the rematch clause included in the bout contract.

we will make the rematch in the UK, November or December…– AJ said afterwards.

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Roland Garros! Men’s Top 10 Seeds Advanced To 2nd Round, While Women Draws Already Have Top-Ranked Casualties.

Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record-equalling 2nd Grand Slam sweep started at 2019 Roland Garros with a comfortable straight 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win over Polish’s Hubert Hurkacz in the round of 128. The 32-year-old Serb had won the immediate past 3 Grand Slam; the 2018 Wimbledon and US Open and 2019 Australian Open respectively. A French Open triumph would make Djokovic only the 2nd man after Rod Laver to hold all 4 Open titles at the same time. Djokovic came into the French Open with a mixed fortune, winning the Madrid Masters and then lost the Rome Masters to Rafael Nadal in a back-to-back ATP Masters tournament finals. However, the Rome Masters’ loss perhaps might be a good omen for the Serb, who’s 2016 French Open triumph came at the back of a Rome Masters’ defeat to Andy Murray. If Djokovic can pull a French Open final triumph, it would be his 2nd ever and his 16th Grand Slam total.

The Rome Masters win over Djokovic couldn’t have come at the right time for French Open defending champion, Rafael Nadal, the Spaniard had had a torrid season battling with injuries and form, the Rome Masters win over 1 of French Open favourite is a much-needed confidence booster going into his round of 128 ties. Nadal’s dominance over clay court has no equal, having 11 French Open titles to his name compared to Djokovic and Federer’s 1 apiece. However, Djokovic still holds Nadal’s biggest threat, with the likes of Dominic Thiem also prowling the clay court. The 32-year-old Spaniard raced to a comfortable 1st round victory, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 over Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann in just about 2 hours and will next play another German, Yannick Maden in round 2.

It is no news that the clay court is the least favoured surface by the Swiss Maestro, Roger Federer, his solitary 2009 French Open title out of a total of 20 Grand Slams speak volume, and it’s worthy of note that it was in the absence of Nadal who withdrew in the quarterfinals due to injury. Nevertheless, the 37-year-old Swiss can never be underestimated, not by a whisker. This year’s tournament is Federer’s 1st since his injury-self imposed exile from the clay court after 2015 tournament, and he began on an encouraging note, as if he was never away, a straight 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 win over Italia’s Lorenzo Sonego in less than 2 hours in the 1st round was a good start, and the Swiss said afterwards,

I really don’t know how far I can go in this event and I am very happy with my 1st round

Other men’s top 10 seeds players that made it past the round of 128 includes;

4th seed, Dominic Thiem(Austrian) dropped a set in his 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7-5), 6-2 victory over Tommy Paul of the United State of America. 5th seed and German, Alexander Zverev began his French Open campaign in a 5-set thriller win over Australia’s John Millman, Zverev raised to a 2-sets 7-6(7-4), 6-3 lead, but Millman levelled 6-2, 7-6(7-5). However, Zverev showed resilience to take the deciding set 6-3. Number 6 seed, Greek’s Stefanos Tsitsipas saw off Germany’s Maximilian Marterer, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(7-4). Japanese Kei Nishikori also made it, the 7th seed defeated France’s Quentin Halys 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. Argentine and 8th seed Juan Martin Del Potro beat Nicolas Jarry (Chi) 3-6, 6-2,6-1, 6-4. 9th seed Fabio Fognini defeated fellow countryman, Italy’s Andreas Seppi, 6-3, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. Russian and 10th seed, Karen Khachanov made it past German, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4.

Women’s Draw:

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Osaka, Serena & Halep

World No 1 & Japanese finest, Naomi Osaka‘s breakthrough to stardom can be describe as swift, fast and furious, a back-to-back Grand Slam titles, having followed the 2018 surprising victory over Serena Williams in the US Open with 2019 Australian Open triumph, the 24-year-old is surely one of the next generation force to reckon with. However, she came into the French Open in poor form, losing out of both Madrid and Rome Masters in the quarterfinals. She had to dig deep to overcame Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Schmiedlova took the 1st set 6-0, but Osaka fought back to win the next 2 sets 7-6(7-4), 6-1 and advanced into the next round.

Serena Williams, arguably the best women tennis players of all time, definitely the best in Open era, with 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most in women ranks and 8 runners up in 31 singles finals. However, Serena’s last Grand Slam title win was in 2017 Australian Open, as she struggled to combine motherhood with the asking nature of tennis and recent ankle injury. The 37-year-old American began her French Open campaign on a shaking note, dropping the 1st set, but she rallied to win the next 2 sets, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 over Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko.

Defending French Open Champion, Simona Halep began her title defence with against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic. The Romania, 27, has not had the best of preparation coming into French Open, losing the Madrid Masters final to Kiki Bertens and then exciting the Rome Masters in the round of 32. She was stretched into 3 sets too by Tomljanovic, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 she won and will now face Polish, Magda Linette in the round of 64.

There has been a major upset in the women’s draw though, as former Grand Slam winners; Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams exited the 1st round already.

5th seed Kerber, recently returns from an ankle injury, obviously, the German has not yet rediscovered the form that saw her win 3 Grand Slam titles. Her 4-6, 2-6 straight sets loss to Russian, Anastasia Potapova meant she will not be adding the only Grand Slam missing in her cabinet. Just like Kerber, Venus Williams has been plagued with injuries in recent time and came into French Open unseeded which unavoidably paired her with a tough 1st round tie with 9th seed Elina Svitolina. Venus lost to Svitolina 3-6, 3-6. Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki was also booted out in the 1st round by Russian’s Kudermetova Veronika, the former Australian Open champion was defeated 6-0, 3-6, 3-6.

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Ajax Completed A Remarkable Season Despite UCL Disappointment.

Ajax Amsterdam has successfully usurped PSV as the Eredivisie Champion, their 1st since 2014 and their record-extending 34th overall. Ajax clinched the title ahead of the defending champion, PSV with 3 points to complete a domestic double, having won the Dutch football cup, KNVB earlier in the month, they also had a commendable run in the UEFA Champions League, where they narrowly lost at the semifinals.

EREDIVISIE;

Ajax went through much of the league campaign neck-and-neck with bitter rivals, PSV, both teams were on the same point up to the pen-ultimate league matches, only separated on goal difference. However, Ajax opened up a 3-point gap over PSV in the matchday 33 with a win over Utrecht, coupled with PSV’s loss at AZ Alkmaar. They made the title sure with a comfortable 4-1 win at De Graafschap in the final round of league matches on Wednesday. Incredible season-long performances by coach Wrik Ten Hag tutored side, scoring a staggering 119 league goals, an average of 3.5 goals per match, a goal every 26 minutes, conceding just 32 goals in the same number of matches, an average of 0.94 goals per match, a goal every 96 minutes.

Ajax paraded some of the youngest lads in the Eredivisie, with an average age of 24.0 years, led by a 19-year-old captain, Matthijs De Ligt, they easily run their opponent ragged with their energetic, counter-attacking display. In their ranks includes Dutch duo, Barcelona bound, Frankie De Jong(22 yrs), Donny Van De Beek(22 yrs), Brazilian wide forward, David Neres(22 yrs), Algerian-French’s Hakim Ziyech(26 yrs) and the experience Dutch defender, Daley Blind(29 yrs) and many more exciting and talented players. Ajax’s season by the numbers;

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For more stats on Ajax’s season, see Footystats.

KNVB CUP;

The TOTO KNVB Cup is the Dutch football cup competition(i.e FA Cup). It was the 1st of Ajax’s season’s achievement, Ajax defeated Willem II 4-0 in the final to lift the cup. Ajax defeated the defending champion, Feyenoord 3 nil en route to the final, a run of 5 wins and a draw, scoring 21 goals and conceding just 2. It is now another record extending 19th KNVB Cup title for Ajax, with the closest Cup winner Feyernoord, coming a distance with 12 titles.

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE;

Ajax remarkable run in this season’s UCL cannot be over-emphasized. They started their campaign in a relatively tough group that includes the German Champion, Bayern Munich, and the Portuguese seasoned campaigner, Benfica. Amazingly, Ajax scaled through the group undefeated, won 3 and drew 3 including away draws at Bayern and Benfica in the 6 group matches played. The young side then hit the headlines after defeating the 3-time defending champion, Real Madrid 4-1 at the Bernabeu, against all odds in the round of 16. They showed the footballing world that the result was not a fluke without another incredible result over Cristiano Ronaldo led Juventus, winning 2-1 at Turin to reach the last 8. However, their fairy tale run was ended by an equally amazing team, Tottenham Hotspur in the semifinals.

It is widely expected to be a mass exodus of these young, talented players as the summer transfer window is already here, we already seen a big-money transfer of Frankie De Jong to Barcelona, others are expected to follow suit as talks have been held with the likes of Matthijs De Ligt, David Neres, and co. It is hard to see whether Ajax will cash in on these players or ward off all these European suitors, whatever the case, Ajax has shown the footballing world of what they are capable of. A remarkable season they have had irrespective of their or Eredivisie rank on UEFA coefficient table.

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It’s Aston Villa vs Derby County In The EFL Championship Playoffs Final.

The 2018-19 English Football League Championship playoffs final is going to be contested for between Aston Villa and Derby County at the Wembley Stadium. The 2 teams secured their places in the final by defeating their opponents, West Brom and Leeds United respectively. One last push for promotion into the EPL and a fat monetary reward lies in wait.

West Brom 1(3)-(4)0 Aston Villa (2-2 agg);

West Bromwich Albion went into the semifinal, home leg tie with a goal deficit, having lost at 1-2 at the Villa Park, only a 2-goal margin win would have seen them through to the final. Aston Villa, on the other hand, needed to avoid defeat to scale through to the final, having held a 2-1 home advantage into the 2nd leg, thanks to a Tammy Abraham spot-kick winner in the 1st leg.

As it is in every derby match, home advantage, stats and form play little or no effect, this West Midlands derby wasn’t an exception, as the away side, Villa dominated the proceedings at the Hawthorns. However, it was the home side that got a 29th-minute lead, Craig Dawson rose highest to nod in a Mason Holgate corner to level the aggregate score at 2 all, 1 nil on the night. Villa almost hit back in the 43rd minute, Anwar El-Ghazi fired a long-range effort from outside the box but it was well saved by Sam Johnstone in West Brom goal. The half ended with the scoreline still stood at 1 nil in favour of the home side.

Villa started the 2nd half with urgency, pushing West Brom into their own half, but the Baggies stood their ground. West Brom resulted to set pieces and long-range shots looking for the winner, and almost got it in the 55th minutes through a Jay Rodriguez shot from outside the box, but Jed Steer in goal for Villa had it covered. With the home side proving difficult to break down, Villa also tried an outside the box shots in the 68th minute through El-Ghazi, but Johnstone made a good save. West Brom were reduced to 10 men with 10 minutes left of the regulation time, 2nd booking for Chris Brunt now made it difficult for West Brom to get the all important 2nd goal, as Villa laid siege on their box trying to take advantage of the extra man, they, Villa also got their goal, 2 quick-fired efforts from Albert Adomah and John McGinn were well saved by Johnstone in the 87th and 88th minutes respectively. But with no further goal from both side in the full regulation time plus the 30 extra times, and the tie still stalemates at 2-2 on aggregate and no away goal rule in play, the tie went into the dreaded penalty shootout.

A back-to-back misses from the spot for West Brom’s Mason Holgate and Ahmed Hegazi proved costly for the Baggies, as Villa converted 4 of their 5 kicks(Albert Adomah the only miss), Chelsea loanee, Tammy Abraham kept his cool to convert the decisive spot-kick, as Villa won 4-3 on penalties.

Leeds 2-4 Derby (3-4 agg);

What could Frank Lampard do to have 1 over Marcelo Bielsa? his Derby County side had gone down 3 times consecutively, including the 1st leg home loss, to Leeds United, He travelled to Elland Road to upturn a 1-goal deficit from the 1st leg. A home draw was what Leeds needed, having held the 1st leg 1 nil advantage, as Bielsa sought redemption having let automatic promotion slipped through his fingers from a very respectable position.

It was the home side that quickly asserted herself on the visitors, calling Derby goalkeeper, Kelle Roos to an early 6th minute save from a Luke Ayling left-footed shot. With Leeds calling the shot, it didn’t take much longer before they got their goal, an inviting free-kick was turned in by Stuart Dallas after it bounced off the post in the 24th minute to earn 1-0 scoreline, and it could have been 2 nil in the 36th minute had Patrick Bamford placed his effort into the corner rather than the centre of the goal, Roos well placed to save Bamford’s effort. Against the run of play, Derby levelled in the injury time of the 1st half(45 min), Jack Marriott capitalized on a Leeds defensive mix up to scored with his 1st touch on the ball having just came on for Duane Holmes in the 44th minute, as the half ended in a 1 all draw, Leeds still holding to a 2-1 aggregate scoreline.

The 2nd half started with a bang, with Derby coming off the block smoking, a quick-fired 1st half goal in the 46th minute by Mason Mount to level things up at 2-2 aggregate, 1-2 on the night. It was all Derby’s at the moment as Mason Mount drew a smart save from Kiko Casilla in Leeds goal in the 49th minute. Leeds tried a long-range effort through Stuart Dallas but Roos was on hand to save it. Derby scored what looked like the winning goal in the 58th minute through Harry Wilson converted spot-kick, to put the scores at 1-3, 2-3 on aggregate. However, just as when it seemed Derby are cruising away with a victory, the home side struck back, they pulled a goal back in the 62nd minute, with Stuart Dallas getting his brace on the night, 2-3 the scoreline, and 3 all on aggregate. The home side was reduced to 10 men with 12 minutes of the regulation time still to play for, Gaetano Berardi was sent off after receiving his 2nd yellow card for a reckless tackle. With 1 man down, it’s always going to be difficult for Leeds as Derby scored again in the 85th minute, Jack Marriott completing his brace, 2-4 on the night to Derby, 3-4 on aggregate. Derby has their goalkeeper, Roos to thank though, as he made 3 saves to denied Leeds a late equalizer, Liam Cooper, Stuart Dallas and Jack Clarke were all denied by Roos in the closing stages of the encounter. A late red card to Derby’s Scott Malone could not deny Frank Lampard a win over Bielsa at the 4th time of asking, 2-4 the match ended and 3-4 on aggregate. Leeds’ quest for promotion now vanished till next season when they will have to try again.

Aston Villa will hope to avoid a back-to-back playoffs final defeat when the play Derby County in the final, Villa lost last season’s playoffs final to Fulham who are now back in the EFL championship. Frank Lampard will now face his former Captain, John Terry(who is the assistant manager to Dean Smith at the helms of Aston Villa) in the dugout at the Wembley Stadium.

Who do you folks want to see back in the EPL? Frank Lampard barking instructions to his Derby players against Chelsea or John Terry doing a Mikel Arteta for Aston Villa against the Blues?

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The Richest Game In World Football, The 2018-19 Skybet Championship Playoffs Is Here

The 2018-19 English Championship playoffs are here again, apart from the promotion into the elite division, the EPL at stake, the financial reward at stake is even more lucrative and worth playing for. It is by far the biggest prize money in football, more lucrative than the UEFA Champions League. While Real Madrid carted away an estimated £76.5 million for winning the 2017-18 UCL, Fulham earned an estimated £170.3 million for winning last season’s playoffs, more than double Real Madrid’s reward. So, it is understandable why teams will go the length in winning the championship playoffs. This season’s playoff fixtures include;


Derby Country vs Leeds United,

Aston Villa vs West Bromwich Albion.

the winner of these 2-leg ties with compete for glory at the Wembley Stadium.


Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom (1st leg):

Aston Villa-West Brom rivalry is dated back to the late 19th century (1882). The tie between these 2 West Midlands clubs is popularly known as the West Midlands derby, with the 2 rival’s stadia, Villa Park and The Hawthorns some 4 miles apart. West Brom holds the head-to-head advantage over Villa in the 2 fixtures played this season, winning 2 nil at Villa Park and a 2 all draw in the reverse fixture. Though West Brom lost the season’s finale match to Derby County, they had already secured playoffs status with 3 games to spare, finishing in 4th place behind Leeds United. A remarkable job by the caretaker manager, Jimmy Shan who only took over from Daren Moore in March. Aston Villa, on the other hand, had a brilliant end-of-the-season run, a run of 11-match unbeaten prior to the last game of the season, a run that includes 10-straight win and a draw. One player that has been singled out for Villa’s brilliant run is the much sort after, Jack Grealish, he has been outstanding for Villa, it is hard to see if he will not be snapped away by bigger clubs. The possibility of 2 ex-Chelsea player squaring up against each other at the dugout is very likely if Villa( which has John Terry as an assistant to Dean Smith) could navigate past West Brom and Derby County(which has Frank Lampard as her manager) overcomes Leeds United.

The odds overwhelmingly favoured Villa(@ 1.96) to Win this 1st tie over West Brom(@ 4.12), and so it turned out to be, but it didn’t start according to the script for Villa. They went behind in the 16th minute when Dwight Gayle long-range left-footed shot beat Villa’s Jed Steer in goal. They tried to get back into the game just 2 minutes later, but Anwar El-Ghazi’s effort was well saved by West Brom’s Sam Johnstone in goal. Villa probed for an equalizer but couldn’t hit the target, and when they did get an effort on target in the dying minutes of the 1st half(45+2 min) through defender, Tyrone Mings, but West Brom goalkeeper saved well to keep his team’s lead into the interval.

Villa start from where they left off after the break, asking all the questions from West Brom, Sam Johnstone in goal for Albion was call into action again in the 59th minute by Villa’s Grealish, the goalkeeper saved well, Johnstone pulled another save in the 65th minute to deny El-Ghazi. All Villa’s dominance and pressure paid off in the 75th minute when a long-range effort from outside the box by Conor Hourihane beat Johnstone atlas, 1 all at Villa Park, with about 15 minutes plus added time still to play for. 4 minutes after they levelled, Villa took the lead via a converted spot-kick by Tammy Abraham after Grealish had drawn a foul from Kieran Gibbs in the box. In the 88th minute, Albion was reduced to 10 men after Dwight Gayle received his marching order for a reckless tackle, and will now miss the decisive 2nd leg. 2-1 is how it finished in favour of the home team at Villa Park.

Derby County 0-1 Leeds United(1st leg):

If there is one thing in the mind of Derby County manager, Frank Lampard, it would be vengeance. His team lost both fixtures against Leeds United in the league (1-4 home loss and a 2 nil loss at Elland Road), Lampard would want to have one over Leeds manager, Marcelo Bielsa, whose Spygate comment after the 2nd defeat of Leeds sparked Lampard’s anger along with most managers in the league. Derby secured their playoffs status with a back-to-back end of the season’s wins, to finished 6th ahead of Middlesbrough. Leeds United started the league well and was cruising in 2nd automatic promotion spot until thing went south, especially after the Spygate comment. A dip in form that saw them lose 3 out of their last 4 end-of-the-season matches(L, D, L, L, ) and missed out on automatic promotion to Norwich City and Sheffield United. Leeds United fascinating tale is dated back to 2000, from playing back-to-back European football(2000 UEFA Cup semifinal loss to Galatasaray and 2001 UCL semifinal loss to Valencia) to getting relegated in 2003-04, they then fell into administration and end up in League 1 in 2006-07, it was a freefall from grace to grass. This season’s Championship playoffs is their 2nd attempt to gain promotion since their drop in 2004(1st attempt was a playoffs final loss to Watford in 2005-06).

Leeds once again proved her dominance over Derby County with a 1 nil win at the Pride Park Stadium, It was a fiercely contested tie that saw a total of 27 fouls, with 7 cautions, 4 for Derby and 3 for the visitors, Leeds. A match of limited opportunities where the home side failed to register a single shot on target all night, in fact, no shot was registered on target for either side until Leeds’ goal in the 2nd half(55 min), Leeds’ Kemar Roofe connected well with a Jack Harrison cross to beat Kelle Roos in goal for Derby. It could have been 2 nil a couple of minutes later, Harrison and Roofe combined again, but the goalkeeper saved this time. Derby thought they had won a spot-kick in the 77th minute, only for the referee to overturn his decision after consulting his assistant. Leeds substitute, Jamie Shackleton wants in on the action, but his effort was saved by Roos in the 81st minute. Leeds comfortably saw off the match for a 1 nil win going into the reverse fixture.

These 2 matches are far from over since the away goal rule does not apply in the playoffs, a 1 goal margin for both of West Brom and Derby County in the reverse fixture will level the scores against their opponents. The return legs will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

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Allan McGregor Saw Red For A UFC Kick On Opponent

This week’s Moanday blog takes us to the Scottish Premier League where a short burst of blood to the head saw a pro goalkeeper surprisingly showed a UFC fighting skill on an opposition player in what has been described as a disgraceful act from many quarters. Rangers Allan McGregor was the culprit, the goalkeeper lost his cool and sunk his studs into the back of Hibernian’s Marc McNulty, and he was immediately shown a red card by the referee. Who moans more? McGregor? for the red card he received, that could keep him out of the remainder of the season? or McNulty? for the bruising and sharp pains, he suffered as a result of the kick?

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Rangers hosted Hibernian in a Scottish league matchday 36 in a match in which the result is inconsequential for Rangers. They had already lost the league title to bitter rivals Celtic and were playing for nothing but pride and bragging rights over their stubborn opponent, Hibernian, the 3 previous league meeting against Hibs this season had all ended in a draw. A win this time would secure Rangers’ 5th straight league wins. Hibernian, on the other hand, was also on a good run of form, unbeaten in their last 10 league matches, won 6 and drew 4 under their new manager Paul Heckingbottom. Hibs sits 5th on the league log table with 54 points, a win over Rangers would have drawn them closer to a 3rd place finish(occupied by Aberdeen prior to matchday 36), which is the last European spot.


Rangers started the match with the malign striker, Alfredo Morelos from the bench, having returned to the squad after completing his 4-match ban for violent conduct. Old warhorse, Jermaine Defoe again, spearhead Rangers’ attack, and he was a menace in Hibs box, alongside teammate and fullback, James Tavernier. They, Rangers could have taken the 1st-minute lead, but wide-forward, Scott Arfield nodded narrowly wide, having been left unmark by Hibs defence. Defoe then missed another glorious chance in the 20th minute when put through on goal by Tavernier. However, 4 minutes before the half-time break, Rangers broke the deadlock, Defoe fired home from a Steven Davis square pass, to give the home side the only goal of the match. Hibs offered little or no threat to Rangers’ rare guard, as they, Hibs spent all evening defending and only had a single shot on target all evening.

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Match stats

However, the moment of madness for McGregor unfolded in the dying minutes(89 min) of the regulation time, McGregor just made a good save from Hibs only effort on target, and he raced to launch the ball infield, and whatever he was thinking, he launched a kick into McNulty’s back, have a look below;

Highlight:

McGregor was correctly dismissed by the referee and will serve a 2-match ban, which ultimately ruled him out of the season. Rangers, having used up their 3 substitutions, midfielder, Ross McCrorie took up the goalkeeping duty for the remainder of the 90 minutes plus 5 additional time, McCrorie even made a decent 90+4 minutes interception to denied Hibs an equalizer(talk about a villain and then a hero), as Rangers held onto the slim 1 nil victory.

McGregor has to remember that sport is all about good sportsmanship, an old saying goes;

Sportsmanship is making sure you have respect for the guy you’re playing across from – Warren Moon

On a lighter note, if Allan McGregor is considering a change of career from football to UFC/kickboxing, his namesake, Connor McGregor of the UFC will sure be waiting in the arena, there is a saying;

you are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream – Aristotle

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European Clean Sweep For English Clubs As Arsenal Plays Chelsea In Europa Final

The dust has barely settled down on what was a memorable Champion League semifinal victories for English clubs Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in this season’s 2018-19 competition and we already have another scintillating semifinal, this time in the UEFA Europa League. Another 2 of English clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea emulated their league counterparts by advancing into the final in what is an extraordinary season for the EPL clubs in European elite competitions. Never has a country had all 4 finalists in the Champions League and Europa League in the same season? It just reiterated the competitiveness of the EPL’s top 6 rather than top 4.

CHELSEA 1(4)-(3)1 FRANKFURT (2-2 agg):

Chelsea held their visitors, Eintracht Frankfurt to a 1 all draw when they travelled to Germany a week ago and sought to get the job done in the reverse fixture at home Stamford Bridge. The tie was still evenly poised as a defeat or a score draw of more than a goal will eliminate Chelsea. Chelsea holds a very good stats against German oppositions in European competitions, played 9, won 7, drew 2 and kept 7 clean sheets, they hoped to keep the record going and had to do it without their combative defensive midfielder, N’Golo Kante who pulled a hamstring injury recently. Chelsea’s domestic form has dipped in recent time, winning just 2 of their last 5(W, D, D, L, W), fortunately, with the EPL top 4 all but secured, they can now focus on the Europa League. Frankfurt, on the other hand, still yet to seal top 4 in the German Bundesliga, the automatic UCL spot is still keenly contested for between Frankfurt and Bayern Leverkusen. Frankfurt recent poor form of a win in 5 league matches(L, D, D, L, W) has seen Leverkusen closed the point gap on her, with both clubs on 54 points, Frankfurt just ahead of Leverkusen in 4th position on a difference of just 5 goals with 2 matches yet to be played, as the season winds up. A Europa League win is a guaranteed back door to next season’s UCL finals.

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Jubilant Chelsea players

Chelsea got out of the block as quickly as expected, but it was the away side that threatens 1st, Kepa in goal for Chelsea showed awareness by stopping Frankfurt’s Danny Da Costa’s effort. The host fired back with their own effort on goal through Chelsea defender David Luiz, whose effort was cleared off the line. Chelsea eventually got there goal in the 24th minute through Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who side-footed into the bottom right corner from an Eden Hazard pick-out pass. Chelsea held the slim 1 nil advantage into the half time break.

The visitor showed intent and quickly hit back 3 minutes into the restarts, Mijat Gacinovic and Luka Jovic combined with a one-two inter-play before the latter find the back of the net for the equalizer. The visitor probed the Chelsea defence for the winning goal but Chelsea held firm to extend the match into an extra-time. Frankfurt almost got the winner twice in the extra-time through Sebastien Haller, but he was twice denied off the line by defenders, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta. After 30 minutes of extra time with no additional goal, the match went into the dreaded spot-kicks.

Chelsea blinked 1st from the spot-kicks as Azpilicueta missed from the spot, and when it seemed as if Frankfurt will coast home with the kicks, Kepa came good with back-to-back saves, denying Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia, before Eden Hazard scored the last kick to win the match for Chelsea. The Blues are into the final where they will play country club and London rival, Arsenal.

VALENCIA 2-4 ARSENAL (3-7 agg):

Arsenal’s hope of automatic UCL qualifications through the domestic league is realistically all but gone, it will take a disastrous whitewash of Spurs by Everton at White Hart Lane in the last match of the season and a likewise whitewash win for Arsenal at Burnley, for the Gunners to still make top 4, it is an unlikely scenario. So, like most clubs that are still vying for next season UCL, Europa League win is the only realistic option for Arsenal, but Valencia with same ambition stood in the way. Arsenal held a decent but still delicately poised 3-1 home win advantage going into the reserve fixture at Valencia, and boss, Unai Emery, who has won the Europa League 3 successive times with Sevilla, knew how difficult it was going to be at his former employer’s stuff, knowing fully well how Arsenal has been dreadful on away ground across all competition. The Gunners’ league form is even less admirable, won just 1 in their last 5( D, L, L, L, W), and many have attributed the Gunners’ recent poor form to the loss of dynamic midfielder, Aaron Ramsey due to injury that has kept him out of the season, the Gunners sure needed someone to stepped into the Ramsey shoe, if they are to go past an opponent who has a record of 1 win and 1 draw over Arsenal in previous 2 meetings prior to the 1st leg tie(win). Valencia sits 5th on La Liga table, 3 points behind Getafe who occupy the last UCL spot with 2 games to go and are on a better league form with 3 wins and 2 losses. It was all to play for at the Estadio Mestalla, home of Valencia.

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Jubilant Arsenal players

Just like in the 1st leg, Arsenal started on the back foot, going down to an early(11 min) Kevin Gameiro goal. Valencia almost made 2 nil, but Rodrigo Moreno’s goalbound effort hit his teammate Gameiro, the miss proved costly as Arsenal hit back soon after. Alexandre Lacazette and strike partner, Pierre-Emerick Aubamenyang combined well before the Gabonese volleyed in the equalizer in the 17th minute, the 1st half ended 1 all.

Arsenal got the all-important goal in the 2nd half when Lucas Torreira found Lacazette who duly finished off in the 50th minute. Valencia showed resilience and soon levelled, Gameiro at the double in the 58th minute after connecting with Rodrigo again. However, Arsenal showed superior qualities in the attack when Aubameyang taped in Ainsley Maitland-Niles square, and Arsenal pulled further away in the dying seconds of the regulation time when Aubameyang completed his hat-trick when he got behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s square, 4-2 to Arsenal on the night and 7-3 on aggregate to join Chelsea in the final in Baku.

Arsenal vs Chelsea in the UEFA Europa League Final, coupled with Tottenham Hotspur vs Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League means 4 clubs from the same country will contest the finals of European’s 2 elite club competition for the very 1st time ever, a proud moment for the English Premier League bosses.

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An All English Premier League Clubs Final In This Season’s(2018-19) UEFA Champions League

Another history was made at this season’s UCL semifinal as Tottenham Hotspurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League final for the 1st time ever after defeating Ajax Amsterdam 3-2 in an intriguing tie on the night and 3-3 on aggregate, having lost the 1st leg 0-1, advancing to the final on away goal rule. Spurs joined their English Premier League counterpart, Liverpool in the final to be played in Madrid. Spurs followed up an impressive quarter-final win over 1 of the tournament’s favourite, Manchester City with another hard-fought win over giant-killers, Ajax.

Having witnessed a spectacular turn around victory by Liverpool over Barcelona at Anfield in the 1st semi-final match, Spurs can be forgiven for believing they can get the result needed to progress. But things did not go according to plans at 1st as they already went down 0-2 before half-time, but quick 2nd half substitution and the kind of fighting spirit that saw Spurs overcame City swayed the results deep into injury time.

AJAX:

Ajax Amsterdam of the Netherland needs no introduction in this year’s UCL competition, their remarkable victories over 3-times defending champion, Real Madrid and then Juventus summed up their performances so far in the competition, and Ajax are achieving these results with a group of young lads led by Matthijs De Ligt and Frenkie De Jong. Ajax came into this 2nd leg tie the favourite and in form too, they have won their last 5 matches in all competition, scored 14 goals and conceded 5. Much has been said about their bravery and endurance, the could run all night, such as the strength that comes with youthfulness. Ajax had won the UCL 4 times in the past, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1995, the quest for the 5th title remained well alive prior to the 2nd leg.

SPURS:

Mauricio Pochettino called on his players to match Ajax bravery if they are to progress into their 1st ever UCL final. Spurs needed to produce something special to overturn their 1-goal deficit against Ajax, and they had to do it still without Harry Kane. Spurs were on a back end of 3-straight defeats in all competition, and just 1 win(1 nil victory over Brighton) in last 6 matches and 5 losses Spurs certainly needed inspiration from somewhere. Talismanic South Korean, Heung-Min Son returned to the squad, so was the Belgium defender, Jan Vertonghen, who recovered from the concussion he suffered from the 1st leg.

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Tearful Pochettino

MATCH DEFINING MOMENTS:

• 4′ Ajax started like a house on fire, calling Spurs goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris to an early save from Dusan Tadic

 

deflected the shot.

• 5′ But they duly got their goal a minute later, Lasse Schoene in-swing corner was headed home by Matthijs De Ligh.

• 7′ Spurs showed intent too, Heung-Min Son hit Ajax’s post just 2 minutes after.

• 24′ double saves in succession for Ajax goalkeeper, Andre Onana, first, Dele Alli put Son through on goal, but the Korean was denied by Onana, then, the Ajax goalkeeper denied Christian Eriksen too when he was played through on goal by Lucas Moura.

• 35′ Ajax double their lead when Tadic’s pass found Hakim Ziyech at the left side of Spurs box, the wide forward left-footed shot found the bottom right corner. The half finished with Ajax holding a 3 nil aggregate advantage over Spurs.

• 45′ With the game slipping away from Spurs, manager, Mauricio Pochettino brought on Fernando Llorente for Victor Wanyama to add bite yo Spurs attack.

• 53′ Spurs got close to getting a goal back when Alli and Eriksen combined for the former to drew a save from Onana.

• 55′ But 2 minutes later, Spurs got the breakthrough, the pulled a goal back when Alli found Moura, and the little Brazilian obliged.

• 59′ It was all Spurs at the moment, and Llorente nearly got the equalizer when he connected with a Kieran Trippier’s square, but Onana’s save was unassured as he spilt the ball which fell to Moura, Moura showed composure and quick feet before slotting home the equalizer.

• Spurs sensed their chance and kept probing and prowling Ajax goal for that all-important winner, with enough added time, it looked they were going to get their goal, they did in the added time.

• When the 4th official’s board showed 5 minutes, the home fans showed their disapproval, and their fear was turned into despair in injury time of the added 5 minutes.

• 90+6′ Dele Alli and Lucas Moura combined for the often time for the latter to score a decisive goal that broke Ajax’s fateful heart, 2-3 it ended on the night, 3 all on aggregate.

Ajax’s incredible fairy tale run came to an end, and partly have their selves to blame as they waste a handful of chances, Ziyech could have easily scored a hat-trick too but he fluffed his line. Spurs wouldn’t care, they completely dominated the proceedings in the 2nd half as shown by the stats. 1st ever UCL final will live on Spurs fateful’s memories. It is going to be an all-EPL final in the 2018-19 UCL final for the 1st time since Manchester United defeated Chelsea on Spot-kicks 11 years ago(2008).

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So Far So Good For EPL Clubs In Europe Competitions, As Chelsea And Arsenal Also Reached Europa League’s Last 4

Chelsea and Arsenal reached the last 4 of this season’s UEFA Europa League at the expense of Slavia Prague of Czech and Napoli of Italy respectively. Chelsea holds off a late fightback from the Czech team to win 4-3 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate, while Arsenal recorded a dogged 1 nil win at Naples. The English Premier League now have 2 representatives in another European competition semifinals in the current campaign having already produced 2 (Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur) in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League. What a decent season the EPL Clubs are having in Europe so far. But will all these efforts be counted for nothing if there is not at least a winner from either of competitions?

The last time EPL produce at least 2 clubs in European club competitions was in the then UEFA Cup in 2009-10 when Fulham and Liverpool made the last 4, Fulham went on to lose in the final 1-2 to Diego Forlan led Atletico Madrid, and in the UEFA Champions League in 2008-09 semifinals when Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United reached the last 4. In fact, EPL dominated the UCL for 3-straight seasons, produce 3 teams in the UCL semifinals from the 2006-07 season to the 2008-09 season, but only produced a winner in the 2007-08 when Manchester United and Chelsea advanced to the final, with United overcoming Chelsea through spot-kicks.

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