The 2019 Copa America host, Brazil began their campaign with a routine 3 nil win over Bolivia, 3 2nd-half goals from unsettled Barcelona ace, Philippe Coutinho and a further goal added by a substitute, Everton, was all the host needed to overcome Bolivia, in a far from vintage Brazil performance. With the other Group A tie between Peru and Venezuela ended in a goalless stalemate, Brazil sits atop Group A with 2 points margin and 3 goals advantage.
Brazil have failed to win the tournament since they last won it in 2007, the pressure is on for the Samba Boys to add to their tally of 8 Copa America titles, and they have to do it without their talismanic striker, Neymar Jnr, who got injured while preparing for the tournament.
The last 5 meetings between Brazil and Bolivia is slightly in Brazil’s favour, with 2 wins, 2 draws and a solitary defeat, and the odds favoured them to win again at the Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium. Wearing an unpopular white shirt for the 1st time in about 60 years (most of us on scorum platform were not even conceived when they last wore a white shirt), in honour of their 1st Copa America win on home soil some 100 years ago(1919), Brazil lacked inspiration in the final 3rd. It was a lacklustre 1st-half performance by the Samba Boys, where they failed to register a shot on target. The front trio of Richarlison(Everton), Firmino(Liverpool) and David Neres(Ajax) failed to trouble an unfazed Bolivia defence despite dominating the entire proceedings, which prompted jeers and boos from the home supporters towards the Brazilians.
However, the host put up a better show in the 2nd half and was rewarded with a goal 5 minutes into the restart via a VAR assisted penalty-kick. Adrian Jusino was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, and Coutinho duly converted for the 1st goal. The host pulled further clear just 3 minutes later, with Coutinho at the double, the Barcelona ace nodded in from close range from a Firmino cross. The host made victory sure with a 3rd goal 5 minutes from stoppage time and in style, substitute, Everton’s right footed shot from outside the box beat the Bolivia goalkeeper, Carlos Lampe to the bottom right corner.
A slightly improved 2nd half saw Brazil fire 5 shots on target, scoring 3 out of it, however not the kind of performance expected of Brazil, aiming to host and win for the 5th times, having hosted and won in 1919, 1922, 1949 and 1989, they won’t have the luxury of recovering from a slow start against the likes of Chile, Argentina, or even Uruguay.
An oftentimes difficult opening match is out of the way, they can now focus on the next game against Venezuela, with plenty of room for improvement.
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Toronto Raptors defied all odds to claim their maiden NBA Championship with a 114-110 victory in Game 6 to take a 4-2 series triumph over favourites and the 2-time defending champion, the Golden State Warriors. Few would have seen this coming, probably Drake and a just a handful die-hard Raptors fans, but the Raptors did it, not without a stroke of good fortune on their path and misfortune on the path of their opponent, Golden State Warriors who were ravaged by injuries to key players.
Once the Raptors had claimed a 3-1 series lead, it was always going to be a daunting task for the Warriors playing catch-up. The Warriors were never at full strength throughout the playoffs till the final, with injuries at some point or the other to the likes of Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, starman Kevin Durant and then DeMarcus Cousins was never really the same player since his return from a torn left quad.
The Raptors drew the series’ 1st blood with Game 1 victory, winning 118-109 at home, but like a warrior, the Golden State Warrior fought back to take the next Game 109-104 on the road. However, Raptors did the unthinkable, taking the next 2 games at the Oracle Arena, 123-109 & 105-92 respectively to take the series lead 3-1 and be on the brink of a historical NBA final triumph. But then, a surprise return of Kevin Durant for Game 5 which was short-lived, as Durant lasted just the 1st quarter and 3 minutes of the 2nd quarter, however, his presence may have boosted his teammate’s morale as they went on without him to narrowly win Game 5 106-105. Nevertheless, there was no denying the Raptors of the glory, as they seal the series 4-2, with a Game 6 hard-fought 114-110 win.
It was a close Game 6 contest, right from the 1st quarter, the Raptors raced to an 8-0 lead through Kyle Lowly, but the Warriors gradually claw their way back into the game, as the quarter ended 33-32 to the Raptors. It was a see-saw game from then on, as the lead kept exchanging hands several times. Klay Thompson in the thick of things for the Warriors, while Kawhi Leonard was also up and running for the Raptors, as the Raptors still edged the 2nd quarters 60-57. The Raptors were destined for victory, as Golden State Warriors leading scorer with 30 points, Klay Thompson left the court injured with about 2 minutes of the 3rd quarter remaining, Warriors did manage to overtake the Raptors though, ending the quarter with an 88-86 lead. However, the loss of Klay Thompson in the Warrior’s rank proved crucial in the 4th and final quarter, as the Raptors regained the lead through a Fred VanVleet jump shot with less than 4 minutes to play, and the Raptors never relinquish the lead, closing up the game 114-110, for a famous win.
Pascal Siakem and Kyle Lowry both recorded 26 points for the Raptors, with Kawhi Leonard and Fred VanVleet adding further 22 points each. Serge Ibaka(15 points) and Marc Gasol(3 points) also got on the scoreboard for the Raptors. Warriors’ Klay Thompson led the way with 30 points before getting injured, Andre Iguodala(22 points), DeMarcus Cousins(12 points) and Draymond Green(11 points) all in double figures, but wasn’t enough for the Warriors.
The Golden State Warriors will not be defending the NBA Championship for a 3rd successive year, no thanks to the Toronto Raptors, who won the NBA finals for the 1st time in their history. More worrying for the Warriors is the talisman Kevin Durant may be out of the entirety of the next NBA season.
Is this the end of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty? or An injury free next season will propel the Warriors back to the summit of NBA dominance?
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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.
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 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)
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.
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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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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 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.
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;
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.
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 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.
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.
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;
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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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.
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.
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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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 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.
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.
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).
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.
Ajax Amsterdam of the Netherlands picked up from where they left it at the Santiago Bernabeu by defeating Juventus 2-1 at the Allianz Stadium, Turin in the night and 3-2 on aggregate. The manager Erik Ten Hag tutored side showed that their 4-1 win at Madrid, as well as their away form in the competition this season, were not a fluke.
Juventus, on the other hand, had already lost at home in this current competition, losing 1-2 to Manchester United in a Group H match, and were banking on the kind of home performance that saw them overturned a 2 nil deficit against Athletico Madrid in the round of 16. They rested the majority of their 1st team players at the weekend in the league match defeat at SPAL, in preparation for this 2nd leg match against Ajax.
The match started slowly, a very cagey affair with no clear cut chances, both teams cancelling each other out, especially in the midfield. However, a couple of minutes before the half-hour mark, Cristiano Ronaldo popped up with the opening goal, the striker sneaked away from his marker to nod in a Miralem Pjanic’s corner for Juventus opener. But just like in the 1st leg tie, Ajax did not lie down without a fight, they got their equalizer just 6 minutes later, Donny Van De Beek cooly slotted past Wojciech Szczesny in goal for Juventus after controlling an ambitious shot from a teammate, Hakim Ziyech. 1 all the scoreline going into the break.
It was all Ajax in the 2nd half as the young lads asked most of the questions from Juventus, and with so many chances created by Ajax, it was only a matter of time before they found the breakthrough. The sought-after young defender, Matthijs De Ligt rose highest to power home Lasse Schoene’s corner kick. Juventus, needing 2 goals to turn things around, but could not find the motivation needed, as they were run ragged by ever running and untiring Ajax young lads.
The 2-1 defeat of Juventus meant Cristiano Ronaldo will not be gracing the UEFA Champions League final for the 4th year in a row, having won it 3 straight years with Real Madrid. Also, Ajax will be playing in the UEFA Champions League Semifinal for the 1st time since 1997, when they were beaten by Juventus in the semifinals, either Spurs or Manchester City wait in the wings.
Barcelona breezed past Manchester United 3-0 to advance into the semifinal for the 1st time since 4 seasons ago, the Catalan joined Ajax as the 1st-2 clubs to reach the semifinals, with the 2 other slots to be completed on Wednesday night.
Barcelona manager, Ernesto Valverde rested most of his starting lineup, only goalkeeper, Ter Stegen started in the league fixture at the weekend in the Spanish La Liga with United’s tie at the back of the manager’s mind. Manchester United, on the other hand, did not have the luxury of resting his players as the race for EPL top 4 still widely open. United’s manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also have the trio of Alexi Sanchez, Nemanja Matic and Matteo Darmain back in the squad, a timely boost for United, though young lad, McTominay has done extraordinarily well in Matic absence. Nevertheless, United needed more than Alexi, Matic and Darmain to stop Leo Messi-led Barcelona.
Trailing 1 nil from the 1st leg, and drawing inspiration from their remarkable win at PSG, United started with intent right from the blast of the whistle, with the 1st-3 chances of the game falling to United, Rashford hitting the crossbar inside 40 seconds of the game. The forward soon fired another weak shot which was easily dealt with by Barca goalkeeper, Ter Stegen. However, Barcelona was awarded a spot-kick in the 12th minute when Rakitic was adjudged to be brought down, but the decision was overturned after VAR review. 4 minutes after the spot-kick incidence, Barca opens their goal account on the night through their mercurial man, Leo Messi. Ashley Young was rubbed off the ball by Messi and the diminutive forward went past United defenders to curl a left-footer into the bottom corner. A few minutes later, on the 20th minutes, it was 2 nil through the same man, Messi, though United goalkeeper, De Gea could have fared better with the safe, he let the ball slipped right through under his arm, the game was all over by halftime.
The 2nd half started and it was all Barcelona, United huffed and puffed but to no avail, as they rarely trouble Ter Stegen. Former EPL and Liverpool ace, Philippe Coutinho finished off any hope of a comeback with a trademark outside the box curler in the 61st minute, 3 nil to Barca. The introduction of Alexi Sanchez could only draw a 90-minute smart save from Stegen.
Barcelona won 4 nil on aggregate, and have qualified for the semifinal for the 1st time since 2014-15, they now await either Liverpool or FC Porto. Messi’s personal vendetta against English clubs continues, as he now has 24 goals against English clubs in the UEFA Champions League.
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SPURS 1-0 MAN CITY, TIE STILL HANGS IN THE BALANCE:
No football manager wants to play the same team 3 times in as many days, but that is exactly the plight of Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola and his EPL counterpart Tottenham Hotspur manager, Mauricio Pochetino. The 2 managers have to oversee their team square it out against each other in a 3-match series; 2-leg tie in a UEFA Champions League match and the reverse fixture of the English Premier League in less than 2 weeks(9th-20th April). The 1st instalment of the Manchester City-Tottenham Hotspur 3-match series began on Tuesday night in a UEFA Champions League 1st leg quarterfinal at the new ultra-modern White-Hart Lane Stadium, and it was 1st blood to the home side, who came away with a slim 1 nil victory.
A lot had been said about how coming back home to White-Hart Lane could prove pivoter for Spurs end-of-the-season home run, and so far so good, 2 games played, both won and the latest victory though slim, may be very crucial to Spurs quest for UCL semifinal berth. City, on the other hand, is so engulfed by their quest for a quadruple that the manager had to rotate the team to be able to cope with their busy schedule, a decision that might be responsible for his team’s loss to Spurs, as the omission of Leroy Same and Kevin De Bruyne was obvious in the match proceedings.
To the match itself, The VAR was called to questioning again, after awarding a 12th-minute spot-kick against Danny Rose, who was falling and could not have known much about his raised hand. As soon As Sergio Aguero’s weak kick was saved by Spurs goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, Spurs grew in confidence and certainly took the fight to City, more overall shots, more on target as the stats shows.
Aguero’s poor spot-kick summed up his night, he and his teammates were tamed by Spurs centre-halves who did excellent work in the night, Hugo Lloris with a smart spot-kick safe was rarely troubled all night. Spurs’ Son Heung-Min came good on the night yet again, His 78th-minute goal proved to be the difference, a man-of-the-match performance by the Korean, He is making new White-Hart Lane his own with a back-to-back goal now.
Though, the tie still hangs in the balance as both managers will have a lot to think of going into the 2nd leg and the remainder of the Man City-Spurs series. Spurs especially may have to deal with the potential loss of Harry Kane for the remainder of the season, while Man City will definitely relish the return of Bernardo Silva, either or both of Benjamin Mendy and Oleksander Zinchenko( who could have fared better than Fabian Delph). There is still all to play for in these ties.
Liverpool 2-0 FC PORTO, KLOPP’S LADS 1 STEP INTO SEMIS:
Liverpool are expected to have it easy over FC Porto of Portugal at the Anfield Stadium on Tuesday and over the 2 ties, coupled with the fact that a Portuguese side have never won away at England across all European competition, drawing just 3 and losing 17 in 20 matches, seemed the winless run is not about to end, not on Liverpool’s watch.
These 2 teams also met in the 2017/18 round of 16 ties where Liverpool emerged as the winner, a Sadio Mane hat-trick, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino goals away at Porto ensured a 5 nil aggregate win. Liverpool’s dominance over Porto continued in this 1 leg quarterfinal tie with a comfortable 2 nil victory.
Jurgen Klopp went for a compact midfield of Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita and Fabinho and all 3 make a good account of themselves. Keita marked his 1st UCL start with an early goal, a 5th-minute deflected shot opened his goal account, Fabinho mopping the midfield and Herderson’s yet again man-of -the-man display, even the defence was in her usual impregnable self, Van Dijk’s commanding display, make-shift left-back, James Milner’s usual decent cover, the match was over as early as the 26th minute of kick-off, when Firmino tapped in from teammate, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s square, as Liverpool were in control of the match.
Liverpool going forward was always going to be a problem for Porto and most teams, Firmino’s influence in the attack cannot be exaggerated. His 13 goals and 8 assists(total 21) since last season is only 2nd to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 24 direct involvement in goals. Firmino has been involved in 12 goals in 11 UCL games at Anfield(7goals and 5 assists). While Mane and Salah often hit the headlines, it is safe to say Firmino is Liverpool’s unsung hero, Liverpool’s version of Heung-Min Son. The only negative of the night for Liverpool was Mo Salah’s wastefulness/Selfishness in the final 3rd, Klopp sure needs a big discussion with his under-fire talisman.
Liverpool with one leg into the semifinals, they have to approach with caution though, Porto still has an outside chance of upturning the 2-goal deficit at home ground, and should not be underrated.
A striker who is supposed to be tucking football into the back of the opponent net ended up preventing one from going in, a tale of former EPL and Stoke striker Choupo-Moting, making a mess of a simple tap in or should I say guide in, and now will have a really moanful day to forget.
Paris Saint-German was hoping to seal the Ligue 1 with 8 games to spare with a win over mid-table side Strasbourg at the Parc Des Prince, Paris on Sunday evening, but their early party will have to be delayed for a while in a rather unfortunate fashion, thanks to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting moment of confusion, that caused the team 2 points.
The Parisians had not dropped a point at home this season and were a sure bet to brush aside Strasbourg at home to successfully defend their Ligue 1 title, their 6th title in 7 years and their 8th title overall. However, they had to claw back from the jaws of defeat to earn a point, having recovered from 1-2 goals down.
PSG rested their young prodigy Kylian Mbappe and thus, the Cameroonian, Choupo-Moting was called upon to start in attack alongside another young French star, Christopher Nkunku. It was not long before Choupo-Moting took centre stage with a goal in the 13th mins, after linking up with right winger Colin Dagba’s square pass, but good interplay at the far left side of the pitch by Strasbourg opened up PSG’s defence for Nuno da Costa Jola to side-footed past Buffon in PSG’s goal for an equaliser. Just a minutes after Strasbourg equalizer, came a shocking moment for Choupo-Moting who denied PSG from going into the lead, Nkunku was played in on goal and the forward chipped, goal-bound over onrushing Strasbourg goalkeeper, Matz Sels, Choupo-Moting in an attempt to steal and claimed the goal awfully stopped the ball from going into the net, unbelievable scene at the Parc de Prince Stadium as the Cameroonians looked to the heavens for some respite. Rubbing salt on Choupo-Moting and PSG’s injury was Anthony Goncalves who’s 38th-minute long-range screamer left Gigi Buffon flat-footed to put Strasbourg in a half-time lead.
Respite finally came for Choupo-Moting in the 82nd minutes, when 2 substitutes combined to rescue a point for PSG, Julian Draxler’s corner kick was nodded home by Thilo Kehrer to end the match 2 all.
PSG will still win the 2018-19 Ligue 1, it is just a matter of time, however, the party could have started in earnest, but Choupo-Moting over-zealous ness ensured that the party is put on a hold for a week or two.
What was Choupo-Moting thinking? trying to stick a foot and claim Nkunku’s goal? or was it just an unfortunate touch on the ball? or was it confusion? like a friend pointed out, it is hard to tell. Whatever it is, his name will go down memory lane alongside Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Christian Benteke and many more amongst football’s greatest miss of all time.
So for Choupo-Moting moment of confusion, I quote this;
Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason – unknown
If Choupo-Moting was to be a defender, then that would have been some clearance off the line. Maybe he should try a switch of position, he might turn out to be one good defender, ending my blog on a diss note.
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Scotland recorded a 2 nil victory away at San Marino, a much needed 3 points in their 2nd EURO 2020 group I qualifying match, to bounce back for a damaging 3 nil defeat at the hand of Kazakhstan in their 1st group match. Though a whitewash was expected from Scotland over San Marino, the lowest ranked team on FIFA’s ranking list, the acquired 3 points was a welcome one, a sigh of relief for the Scots.
When the draws that pitched Scotland into group I was made, it was taunted to be a mountain to climb for the Scot, the stern opposition was not expected to come from Kazakhstan, Cyprus and San Marino though, it was expected to be from Belgium and Russia, who completed a group of 6 countries, but a 0-3 defeat at Kazakhstan, a team which is ranked 117th by FIFA, some 67 places below Scotland, made the already high mountain, sky high for Scotland.
In defence of Scotland coach, Alex McLeish, who has done fairly well since he took over from his countryman, Gordon Strachan, He had gradually improved the teams standing on FIFA log from 67th place to 40 as shown above, He went into the match against Kazakhstan without some key players such as Liverpool left-back and Team Captain, Andrew Robertson, Celtic’s Kieran Tierney, Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser and Cardiff’s Callum Paterson, and with no real quality to replace them, McLeish’s hands were really right. However, the loss was still shocking and looked to have dented Scotland slim chance of making it out of the group. It was their heaviest defeat in a competitive match since a 0-3 loss to England in a World cup qualifier years ago in November 2016.
Scotland went into the 2nd qualifying match against FIFA lowest ranked team in San Marino which is ranked 211, with their fans certainly expecting a response, a whitewash of San Marino, and with the key players back in the team, why not? however, they could only manage a 2-goal victory. An early goal by Kenny McLean and another late in the game by Johnny Russell secured the 2 nil victory, to the disappointment of some of their travelling fans who believe after 2 games, their country should at the least sit on 3rd place in group I, behind only Belgium and Russia, but found themselves 5th behind both Cyprus and Kazakhstan also, booed their team after the final whistle.
Scotland put up a better performance than in the game against Kazakhstan as the stats suggested, and rightly so, they played against the lowest ranked team in the world, nevertheless, their finishing in front of San Marino goal let them down, Kenny McLean who got the 1st goal could have easily been on a hat-trick, but he often flopped his line. Scotland had 21 shots in total (in contrast to 10 against Kazakhstan) and only managed 6 (just 2 against Kazakhstan) on target, including 10 corner kicks (3 against Kazakhstan) against San Marino’s zero. With tougher matches ahead against Belgium and Russia, Scotland sure needs to improve on their shooting in front of the opposition goal.
One of the major factor that will determine who qualifies among Belgium, Russia and Scotland, the so-called big boys of group I, will be the results against the lower ranked team (Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino) in the group, Scotland certainly started on the back foot on that note and will need all the luck football offers to turn things around in their favour. Some might say it is too early in the group to jump into conclusion just like Scotland manager McLeish said, but it is hard to see who will bet against Belgium and Russia to lose against Kazakhstan, Cyprus and San Marino either on away ground or at home.
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Football had seen great spot-kicks, such as ‘the Panenka kick’, made even more popular by the likes of French icon, Zinedine Zidane, Italian legend, Andreas Pirlo, even defenders such as Sergio Ramos had done the Panenka spot-kicks, However, there are awful spot-kicks too, who will forget Italian Simone Zaza bizarre, mazy run up to a spot-kick against Germany in Euro 2016, the David Beckham spot-kick that went up into the sky in a Euro 2004 qualifier, the hilarious Henry-Pires failed spot-kick against Man City, the list goes on. Despite the long list, Bersant Celina spot-kick on Wednesday 13th will find it’s way up to the top of the worst spot-kick ever. This is an unfortunate spot-kick that caused Celina’s team a come-back result in the English Championship tie on Wednesday.
4th place on the Championship log table and promotion hopeful, West Brom hosted 15th place Swansea City in a midweek tie, and the match ended in favour of the home side 3-0. However, the real talking point of the match was the missed spot-kick by Swansea’s Bersant Celina 5 minutes from the interval.
West Brom is seeking a 1st win since the sack of manager, Darren Moore, and what a way to respond by the Baggies. Caretaker manager, Jimny Shan recalled captain, Chris Brunt into his team, and the Northern Ireland winger duly justified his inclusion in the starting lineup. The Baggies took a 19th-minute lead through Brunt’s free-kick, but Swansea City was given a way back into the match in the 40th minute when City skipper Mike Van Der Hoorn was brought down in the box by West Brom’s Craig Dawson, with City’s top scorer and regular spot-kick taker is still out injured, Bersant Celina stepped up and this happened;
the stand-in spot-kick taker opted for a panenka kick style, and just as he approached the ball, he slipped and ended up miskicking the ball in a bizarre fashion, one kick he won’t forget so soon, and his manager agreed with me, he was quoted saying;
It was one of those moments that you don’t wish on anybody… It is just a horrible moment that he will have to get over and deal with…It is easy to mock, of course, and I am sure he will get a bit of that, but that is just life – Graham Potter
With Swansea missing their chance to pull level, West Brom pulls further away after the restart, in the 54th minute when Brunt swung in a corner which was timely connected by Mason Holgate, and then, made the game safe with a 3rd goal through striker, Jay Rodriguez in the 85th minute.
So, was it a wicked slip or a panenka gone wrong, either way, it was a stroke of bad luck, one that put Bersant Celina into an unwanted list of bizarre/missed spot-kick.
Like Bersant manager, Graham Potter said, …that is just life, He just has to deal with it,
it’s a minor setback so to say, and the thing about setbacks;
A setback is never a bad experience, just another one of life’s lessons – Richard Branson
…Look at the disappointment as lessons don’t waste time beating yourself up. Just get back on track and focus on what you want…-Jorge Cruise
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James Harden wrote his name in the history book by becoming the only NBA player to have scored 30 or more points against all 29 opponents in a single regular season when he scored 31 points of Houston Rockets’ 121-105 win over Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, a feat that can be like to Cristiano Ronaldo achievement in his penultimate season in the La Liga, where he scored against all 19 clubs he played against. James Harden also added 8 rebounds and 10 assists to his 31 points on the night at the Philips Arena.
James Harden impressive season also includes a 32 consecutive 30 or more points that were put to a halt in the Rockets’ 119 – 111 win over Tuesday night’s opponent, Atlanta Hawks, where James Harden finished with 28 points. With the Tuesday win, Rockets completed a regular-season double over their opponent for a 2nd successive year. James Harden has now overtaken 2 of the 3 previous records of longest 30+ points streak held by Former NBA star, Wilt Chamberlain, who had a steak of 65, 31 and 25. I personally don’t think any player will ever equal or beat Chamberlain’s 65 30+ point streak.
James Harden ruthlessness in front of opposition basket has never been in doubt ever since his days as Oklahoma City Thunder, but his defensive play had raised eyebrows. However, since his trade to the Rockets, his all-round performances have been top notch. James Harden started the season on a rough patch with the Rockets though, going 4-7, many attributed it to James Harden missing 3-straight games due to injury, but with Harden back in the team, Rockets went on a 5-game winning streak.
James Harden’s 30+ points scoring run did not start until mid-December 2018, and against who else? a team that has another James in her ranks, LA Lakers. James Harden ran LeBron James and the Lakers raged scoring 50, 10 & 11 (Pts, Reb & Ast) in a 126 – 111 victory, with LeBron limited to just 29, 5 & 4. James Harden never looked back since that victory, even in defeats such as the 117-112 loss to the former team, where James Harden still finished with 42 points. A scoring run that also includes career-high points, 61 points in Rockets 114 – 110 defeat of the New York Knicks.
Harden’s points streak may be over, He still leads the NBA with a staggering 36.3 points per game on the average, way ahead of former record 30.12 per game, held by Chicago Bulls’ Michael ‘air’ Jordan. Harden has scored 50+ points in 6 different games this season against Washington Wizards-54 pts, Memphis Grizzlies-57 pts, Brooklyn Nets-58 pts, LA Lakers-50 pts, New York Knicks-61 pts, Miami Heats-58 pts, joining the likes of Michael Jordan in a few elite group that scored 50+ points in more than 5 games in a regular season.
All hail James Harden!
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United loses only there 3rd match in all competition since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over at Old Trafford. Wolves which I consider as the premier league boogie team pulled another upset yet again, they confirmed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United to their 2nd successive defeat in all competitions, having lost to Arsenal in the EPL a week again ago. Wolves impressive performance of the season has seen them defeat 4 of the top 6 clubs, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and now Manchester United are the big guns that have been fed to the Wolves.
Having eliminated Arsenal and Chelsea on their way to the quarterfinals, United were the clear favourite to advance into the last 4, United was also boosted with the return of some of their key men, Anthony Marshall, Jessie Lingard, Ander Herrera was passed fit to start for United
United started the match with the larger percentage of possession, but with little or no threat to Wolves goal, Wolves, on the other hand, were full of energy, pace, and sure ran United ragged, it was a matter of time before such display earned Wolves a goal. Joao Moutinho skipped past 3 United players and found Raul Jimenez who seemed to have lost his footing but somehow regained control and fired the past couple of United bodies, past Sergio Romero for the games opening goal in the 70th minutes. 6 minutes later, it was 2 nil in favour of Wolves, a quick breakaway down the middle saw Wolve’s Diogo Jota shrugged off a challenge from United’s Luke Shaw and fired past Romero. United got a late consolation in the added time of regulation time, 90+5, through Marcus Rashford, 2-1 it ended in Wolve’s favour at the Molineux.
United most realistic chance of winning a title faded into thin air, they still have the UCL as an outside chance though, with Barcelona standing between United and semifinal berth.
Quadruple Still Alive For The Citizen:
Manchester City’s quest of a quadruple was given a scare by championship side Swansea City in the quarterfinals. Swansea is having a difficult season in the league, and a result against high flying EPL side Manchester City, which are coming from a mauling, 7-0 of another team, was highly unlikely. Manchester City gave a much-needed respite to their talismanic striker, Kun Aguero, who started from the bench.
The match started with a plum, Swansea took a surprise 1st-half lead when City’s standing-in left back, Fabian Delph fouled Swansea’s right-back, Connor Roberts in the box, Matt Grimes duly convert the spot-kick to give Swansea a 20-minute lead, 9 minutes later, it was 2 nil, former Man City midfielder, Bersant Celina delightful curler beat Man City goalkeeper, Moraes Ederson to stun Man City. With defeat staring at his face, Pep Guardiola brought in Sterling and Aguero, and their impacts were immense. Man City staged the 2nd-half fight back, though 2 of Man City’s goals were contentious with VAR not in use at the Liberty Stadium. Goals from Bernardo Silva, Swansea’s goalkeeper, Kristoffer Nordfeldt own goal, in off Kun Aguero”s spot-kick, after Sterling was brought down in the box, and an Aguero’s diving header completed Man City’s win.
Manchester City was let off the hook with the absence of the VAR, and head into the FA Cup semifinal with the dream of a quadruple still alive.
Champions Elect Stunned At Genoa:
Juventus travelled to Genoa in the Serie A match-day 28, hoping to extend the point gap between them and nearest rival, Napoli to 21 points, but they were brought to earth by a resolute Genoa. Genoa who sits a distance 12 place on Serie A log table, no longer have the ruthless Krzysztof Piatek in their ranks anymore, but yet were unfazed by the star-studded Juventus side. The Serie A runaway leader had not tasted defeat in the 28 league matches so far, won 24, and drew just 3, one of which was a 1-1 draw against the same opponent earlier in the season, and the odds were in their favour not to lose.
Juventus rested their top goal scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, who was not included in the squad to Stadio Luigi Ferraris and were made to rue the decision as the Old Ladies lacked his finesse in front of Genoa’s goal. There was 2 overturned decision by the VAR at either end of the pitch, firstly, a penalty awarded to Genoa at the half-hour mark due to a contentious handball in the Juventus box, then a Paulo Dybala goal due to an offside in the build-up.
The breakthrough goal finally came in the 72nd minute in favour of Genoa, when substitute, and on-loan Juventus ace, Stefano Sturaro curled in from just outside the box to beat Juventus goalkeeper, and former Genoa, Mattia Perin. Genoa made the maximum points save with the 2nd goal when veteran and 33-year old Macedonian, Goran Pandev scored with just 9 minutes remaining. The defeat is inconsequential as far as the league table is concerned but Juventus will not have an unbeaten season after all.
Inter Milan Edged Derby Di Milano:
Derby di Milano or simply Milan derby is one of most fierce derby in world football, both Inter Milan and AC Milan share not just City but Stadium too. The history between these 2 clubs is old and is dated back to 1909, and will most definitely exist as far as football still exists.
The last time both teams met was a Serie A 1st-leg meeting in October last year, Inter ran away with a 1 nil winner, with Mauro Icardi scoring a stoppage-time winner. Fast forward the months and a lot have changed since October, Milan now has a certain Krzysztof Piatek in their lineup, and he has been massive to Milan course so far, scoring 6 league goals already since his January arrival, and are undefeated in their last 5 matches, winning 4 and drawing 1 in all competition. Inter, on the other hand, are having a patching run, with just 1 win in their last 5 matches across all competition, and will be missing the services of a rebel, Mauro Icardi, injured Radja Nainggolan, Joao Mario, Joao Miranda among other key players.
Despite Inter’s injury absentees, they took an early 3rd-minute lead when Lautaro Martinez and Matias Vecino combined for the latter to score. They scored a 2nd when De Vrij headed in to make the game safe, but Tiemoue Bakayoko half the deficit for Milan, to make it 1-2. Lautaro Martinez restored Inter 2-goal cushion via a spot-kick, but Milan pulled 1 back again 4 minutes later, and so it ended, 2-3 to Inter Milan. Inter have now leap-frog their rivals to 3rd place, 2 points clear, with 10 matches to go.
Contrasting Results For The Madrid Teams:
ZIDANE WON ON HIS RETURN;All the pre-match talking point was the return of Real legend both as a player and manager, Zinedine Zidane to the dugout at the Bernabeu, Zizou as Zidane is popularly referred to was reappointed after Santiago Solari was relieved of the job following a string of poor results that includes an embarrassing 1-4 home defeat at the hands of Ajax Amsterdam.
Zidane’s starting line-up drew a few eyebrows, with the recall of goalkeeper Keylor Navas, left full back, Marcelo, Midfielder, Isco and attackers Asencio and Gareth Bale, all who are a major actor in Zidane’s 3-year dynasty. No qualms as Real Madrid started Zidane’s 2nd reign with a 2-0 victory. Real have to wait until the 2nd half before they finally break Celta Vigo down, Karim Benzema’s cross found Isco, who scored from a few yards out. The 2nd goal came 15 minutes later, Marcelo made one of his trademark forward burst, and then squared the ball to Gareth Bale who fired home, in off the woodwork, to secure the 3 points.
ATLETICO MADRID LOSES AGAIN; Still hurting from the UCL exist, the Diego Simone tutored side went into the La Liga Matchday 28, hoping for a response and a result at rival’s, Athletic Bilbao, which is still in the hunt for a European spot. However, rather than a response from Athletico Madrid, it was more misery as they fell to goals from Inaki Williams and Kenan Kodro at the San Mames Stadium, home of Bilbao.
The slim chance of Atleti catching Barcelona further diminishing, they now trail their rival with 10 points, and Real closing up on their heels, with gap cut to just 2 points.
•All Images are Gettys’ Images, and you can also found this blog on my other accounts with same ID @peman85.
Which league is the most competitive or strongest in Europe?
This is a debate that has been on the lips of football fans across the world for a long time, and while remaining a heated debate till the ‘end of days’.
European governing body, UEFA, uses statistics called UEFA Coefficients to rank countries or associations according to the collective performances of clubs in UEFA competition which includes UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, and it’s current ranking put Spanish association as number 1 as shown below.
The Spanish La Liga had consistently produced 3 teams in the quarterfinals of the Europe elite competition, UCL, for the past 6 seasons, a feat dated back to 2012-13 season, with Real Madrid and Barcelona even ever present for a longer period, Spanish association surely deserve their status as the number 1 ranked association. The last time another association rather than the Spanish La Liga produced 3 teams in the UCL quarterfinals was in 2010-11 season, when the English Premier League produced Chelsea FC, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs, a campaign where Manchester United went all the way to the final, losing 1-3 to, guess who? Barcelona FC of the Spanish La Liga.
It seemed the tide is turning towards the English Premier League, as Tottenham Hotspurs, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool are bringing back the glory days back to England, all advancing into the quarterfinals.
Leading the EPL charge was Tottenham Hotspur, the North London club became the 1st English side to advance into the last 8 after a 4-0 aggregate win over German side, Borussia Dortmund. Spurs put themselves into the driving seat with a 1st leg 3 nil win at White Hart Lane, goals from Son Heung-Min, Jan Vortonghen and Fernando Llorente settled the 1st leg, and they did it without their injured talisman, Harry Kane. Spurs knew they would have to weather the storm in the return league at the Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, and they had their French goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris to thank for not losing the 3-goal advantage early in the 1st half. A Moussa Sissoko through pass found Harry Kane, who held his nerves and coolly slotted past Roman Burki in Dortmund goal to make it 1 nil on the night, and 4 nil over the 2 legs, Spurs 1st quarterfinal place since 2011.
Manchester United joined Spurs in the last 8 with a historic 3-3 aggregate comeback victory on away goal rule over PSG, having won 3-1 on the night at the Parc Des Prince, Paris. All odds were stacked up against United who lost the 1st leg 2-0 on home turf, Old Trafford, goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kilian Mbappe condemned United to their worst home defeat in European competitions. However, United Manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is no stranger to great comebacks, having helped United as a player staged a comeback 2-1 final win over Bayern Munich 20 years ago, pulled another masterpiece away at PSG. A seemingly mission impossible is now one of the greatest come back of all time (1st team in the UCL and European cup history to overcome a 2-goal margin home 1st-leg deficit). United achieved the feat without the services of 10 1st-team players, having lost Paul Pogba, Anthony Marshall, Juan Mata and others to either suspension or injuries.
United ‘noisy’ neighbours, Manchester City joined their EPL counterparts in the last 8 with a 10-2 aggregate whitewash of Schalke 04 of Germany. The 1st leg had ended 3-2 away win for the Citizen, a double spot-kick from former Spurs ace, Nabil Bentaleb had put City in the back foot, but former Schalke o4 ace, Leroy Same scored a delightful free-kick to stage a comeback, then, Raheem Sterling finished off with a late goal.
City come into the return leg at the Etihad Stadium with the 3-away goals, a goalless draw could have been it for City, but City sure put up a ruthless display, once again, it was former Schalke 04 lad, Leroy Sane that orchestrated Schalke 04’s downfall, 7 nil it ended in favour of City, their biggest ever European win. Only Bayern Munich’s 12-1 aggregate win over Sporting CP in 2008-09 UCL round of 16 ties, was a bigger win than City’s 10-2 win over Schalke 04.
Liverpool tie against Bayern Munich was seen as many as the tie of the round, and so it proves to be. The German heavyweight faced an inform Liverpool at Anfield for the 1st leg, and after an evenly contested 90 minutes, nothing could separate the 2 clubs as the tie ended in a 0-0 scoreline, making the return leg at the Allianz Arena even more gingerly poised.
Liverpool showed character in Germany, took an early 26-minute lead through Sadio Mane, Bayern equalized through a Joel Matip own-goal, but Liverpool would not be denied victory, as they regained the lead through defender Van Dijk header. Sadio Mane put the final nail to Bayern’s coffin, to make the scoreline 3-1 on the night, and on aggregate.
English Premier League is producing 4 teams in the quarterfinals for the 1st time since they did it back-to-back in 2007-08 and 2008-09, when Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United reached the last 8. It is an outstanding feat that will surely fuel the old argument of the strongest league in Europe once again. Is this another year for the English Premier League teams? time will tell at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.
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The race for the top 4 finish is getting hotter, with Manchester City and Liverpool destined to occupy the top 2 places, Tottenham Hotspurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea justle for the remaining 2 places. Earlier in the season, Spurs looked to have a firm grip on the 3rd place, and the 4th place was to be contested between Arsenal and Chelsea, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer led Manchester United has remarkably recovered and thrown themselves back into the mix, plus Spur dip form has thrown the race all open again.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Dip continues;
Spurs’ firm grip on top 4 finish has gradually loosened, and now hangs on a tread, they now lead the chasing pack led by Arsenal with just a single point, and 3 points ahead of United in 5th place on the EPL log table, having lost to Southampton on Saturday.
Just like Harry Kane’s return from injury was marred with a 1-2 defeat by Burnley at Turf Moor, his teammate, Dele Alli’s return from an injury suffered a similar fate, as Spurs were defeated 2-1 by a struggling Southampton at St Mary Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur is in a poor run of results with just 1 point from a possible 9 of their last 3 matches, Spurs’ last win was in early February when they defeated Leicester 3-1 without either of Kane or Alli. They started the match against Sutton in the best possible way, took the early ascendancy in the match, as shown above, Kane and Alli combined for the former to score a 26th-minute goal, but Spurs’ defensive worry was highlighted again as they conceded an equalizer through Sutton’s Yan Valery, Spurs 6th-goal conceded in the last 4 domestic matches. Just when it seemed the game will end in a draw, Sutton’s James Ward-Prowse converted a delightful free-kick in the 81st minute to condemned Spurs to a 3rd defeats in 4 matches.
Chelsea Slipped Yet Again;
Chelsea was on the brink of another home loss before a sublime Eden Hazard 92nd-minute curler rescued a point for the Blues. The Blues picked up from the 0-6 mauling at the hand of Manchester City with back-to-back wins over London rivals, 2-0 over Spurs and a 2-1 triumph over Fulham respectively, but they come up against EPL boogie team, a team just below them on EPL log table, Wolverhampton, which has also seen a dip in form with just 1 win in their last 4 matches.
Chelsea dominated the proceedings at Stamford Bridge as shown in the stat above but was unable to a stubborn Wolves, Wolves sat back and defended resolutely against Chelsea and hit back on a swift counter-attack to take the lead through Raul Jimenez, after an interplay between Diogo Jota and Jimenez. Chelsea’s Gonzalo Higuain, Pedro among others, did everything right but could not go past Wolves’ goalkeeper, Rui Patricio, until the stoppage 92nd minute, Hazard found space and took his chance from outside the box. 1-1 it finished at the Bridge.
Chelsea remains in 6th position behind Manchester United in 5th, just 3 points behind 4th place Arsenal, with a game in hand.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Unbeaten Gravy Train Halt Finally By Arsenal;
The biggest EPL match of the weekend was the tie between old rivals Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirate Stadium, as Arsenal claimed the bragging rights over Manchester United, with a 2-0 home win. A win that put an end to United caretaker manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s domestic 12-match unbeaten run and 9-straight away win in all competitions.
The history between these 2 clubs is as old as time itself and became even more fierce in the 90s during Sir Alex Ferguson and “the Professor”, Arsene Wenger time as United and Arsenal managers respectively. United holds the advantage over the Gunners on the head-to-head stat as shown, but it was Arsenal who took a 1st half lead when United goalkeeper, De Gea misjudged Granit Xhaka’s 25-yard swerving shot in the 1st half, and then double their lead with a 2nd-half spot-kick from Aubemayang. There were injury scares for Arsenal when Sead Kolasinac and Laurent Koscielny were attended to. United might felt undone by luck as they hit the woodwork twice, firstly, Lukaku hit the crossbar, then, Fred hit the side post, and had more shot on target than the Gunners, as the stat suggested, but Que sera sera.
Arsenal sure getting the most out of Aaron Ramsey ahead of his summer exit, the Juventus-bound ace had another good match, a man of the match display by the Welsh man that saw him won 8 tackles – most in match, won 12 duels – most in match and covered most ground, 12.7km – most in match, He is vital for Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League place push. Arsenal’s home form also playing a pivotal role, 9 wins out of their last 9 home matches was a massive improvement to last season’s home form.
With 8 matches to go, there is no clear cut favourite for the UCL remaining 2 places, either of these 4 clubs can stake a claim. Fixtures above show the run-in for the 4 clubs in question, points will be dropped no doubt, and if Spurs poor form continues, it looks like she might not make it.
Some see being cunning or sly as smartness that surpasses strength [German proverb],some others disagree, they liken the cunning to a fox, which is as murderous as the violence of the wolf [Thomas Paine], both groups have their reasons, for me, I feel if there are no rules of engagement, then there is no harm or shame in being cunning. The game of football like every sport is guided by different rules and regulations, any sort of antics and trickery outside those rules and regulations are not acceptable and can be term as ‘violence’, ‘improper’ conducts amongst other conduct violations.
Sergio Ramos, fully aware of the rules and regulations, chose to ignore them or probably tried to outfox everyone. The Spaniard was booked in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 ties against a familiar foe, Ajax Amsterdam of the Netherlands, but it was later discovered by UEFA’s ethics committee that it was a premeditated act by Sergio Ramos, Ramos was then slammed with a 2-match ban which ruled him out of the next 2 UEFA matches.
HOW IT UNFOLDED;
Ramos, improper conduct went down in the 1st of the 2-leg match of the UEFA Champions League match between Real Madrid and Ajax at the Johan Cruff Arena, Netherland, Ajax home ground. Real Madrid had taken a respectable 2-1 lead and was holding on till the final whistle, but then, Ramos in his ‘sly wisdom’, picked up an 89th-minute booking (his accumulated 3rd), for what seemed to be a careless tackle on Ajax’s striker, Kasper Dolberg, but during the post-match interview, Ramos was quoted saying;
I would be lying if I said I didn’t force the booking…
His comment apparently showed that his ack was premeditated rather than careless, a comment that had UEFA open a disciplinary investigation and eventually found Ramos guilty by the panel. An additional 1-match ban was added to the initial automatic 1-match ban incurred from the booking. The ban ruled Ramos out of both the return leg against Ajax, and the 1st leg of the quarterfinal should Real go pass Ajax( unfortunately Real didn’t go past Ajax).
Awkward moment for Dolberg when Ramos offers a handshake after been booked, this guy should be sober, Dolberg thought in his mind.
Rubbing salt to Ramos’ injury was the fact that, in his absence, Real Madrid were humiliated in front of home fans 1-4 in the return leg, as they exited the competition 3-5 in aggregated to Ajax, his leadership role at Real Madrid’s defence backline as well as the team as a whole was missing.
WHAT UEFA REGULATION SAYS;
•UEFA rules stipulated that accumulation of 3 cautions carry an automatic 1-match suspension.
•It also says that all yellow cards pick up will be wiped clean after the quarterfinals.
with the rules in mind, Ramos wiping his booking slate clean, reduced the risk of being unavailable for the crucial stages of the competition, well, so it seemed if his plan was successful.
IT HAD HAPPENED BEFORE;
Sergio Ramos is no stranger to cunning conducts and controversies. In 2010, Ramos alongside teammate, Xabi Alonso, deliberately picked up a 2nd booking and then sent off against the same team, Ajax, having taken a comfortable 3-0 lead at the Dutch club home ground. Real goalkeeper, Iker Casillas received instructions from their coaching staff headed by Jose Mourinho through reserved goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, Casillas, in turn, informed Ramos and Alonso of the purported plan from the bench. The red card meant Ramos and Alonso would miss the last group G match for Real Madrid against Auxerre, and enter the knock out phase with a clean slate. Mourinho, Ramos and 3 other Real Madrid players involved in the improper conduct were charged, fined and suspended by UEFA.
Absolutely no room for unsporting conduct in the game will all love. Sergio Ramos cunning ways were caught by the long arm of justice both on and off the pitch. A wise man once said;
You can be more cunning than others but you cannot be the smartest of all – François de La Rochefoucauld
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Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League defeat of reigning champion, Real Madrid, at home turf, Santiago Bernabeu, at the hand of less fancied Ajax Amsterdam, can be seen by many as the end of a golden generation, the dethroning of a true king, and the birth of a new generation of Ajax players. Real Madrid had ruled UEFA Champions League for 3 successive years and was 1 of the fancied clubs to win, but a 1-4 home defeat to Ajax, despite holding a 2-1 advantage, was the least on the bookmaker’s list.
The 1st leg between these 2 clubs ended 2-1 in favour of Real Madrid, an action-packed contest, but overshadowed by controversies. The 2 major talking points that marred the match played at Ajax’s Johan Cruff Arena was a disallowed goal and an intentional yellow card. Nicolas Tagliafico headed opener was disallowed by VAR for a Dusan Tadic’s offside, and then, Sergio Ramos picked up a booking which was later discovered to be a premeditated action by Ramos, which ruled him out of the return leg at the Bernabeu, an action that will now haunt him for a while, as his leadership role was missed in the Real Madrid backline in the return leg defeat.
A masterclass display from former Southampton of English Premier League player, Dusan Tadic, saw the Dutch side took a 1st half lead, 2-0 in an explosive 1st 18 minutes. The Serbian then scored a subline 3rd goal in the 2nd half to pull the match away from Real Madrid. Real pulled a goal back through Marco Asensio, but a 4th Ajax’s goal through Lasse Schone meant Real Madrid will not be defending the UEFA Champions League for a 4th successive year.
The 2nd leg was supposed to be a difficult mountain for the Amsterdam club to climb, but a spirited display by the Dutch side saw them CAME to the Bernabeu, SAW, and CONQUERED, 4-1 on the night, and 5-3 on the aggregate to progress to the quarterfinals stage since 2003, 16 years ago.
Real Madrid’s 1011 days(2years, 9 months, and 5 days since Athletico Madrid defeat in 2016) as champion has been ended by a new generation of young lads from Ajax Amsterdam. The beginning of the end of a talented Madrid squad that includes current world footballer of the year, Lucas Modric, Welsh star, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, former world cup winners, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, and ex-Real Madrid superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo among the Galacticos.
Real parted ways with their talismanic striker, Cristiano Ronaldo in the last summer transfer window, and arrogantly refused to replace him with adequate cover, the current struggle in front of opposition goal is a clear indication that the Portugal international is hugely missed. Real Madrid had reached at least the semifinal since Ronaldo’s 2nd season, 2011-12, at the Bernabeu, players such as Bale, Benzema, Asensio and the young Vinicius Jr found Ronaldo’s shoe too big to lace. Home stadium, Santiago Bernabeu is no more the fortress it used to be as Real has now lost 2(0-3 loss to CSKA Moscow & Ajax) home game already in this UCL campaign, Sergio Ramos’ disciplinary records getting worst by the season, among other worries for Real Madrid.1-4 defeat to Ajax was Real Madrid’s heaviest in a knockout game in Europe, It’s Real Madrid’s 4th lost at the Bernabeu since 2004, their 3rd in history, 1st reigning champion to fail to advance past. round of 16 since Inter Milan in 2010-11, among other stain on their pretty records.
AJAX’S NEW GENERATION
It’s almost a decade and a half since the golden generation of Ajax team ruled Europes elite club competition, the Louis Van Gaal tutored side won the UCL in the 1994-95 season with an exciting youthful team, with an average age of 23 years, a side that includes the likes of Frank De Boer, Edwin Van Der Ser, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Kanu Nwankwo, Patrick Kluivert, Jari Litmanem among other great names of such a talented group. A lot had happened since the generation ended, Ajax struggled to put together such an elite group to challenge in Europe. The best Ajax could achieve in the UCL since then was a quarterfinal place in the 2002-03 tournament, and had failed to advance past the group stage since the round 16 exits in the 2005-06 season.
However, a new wind is blowing, looks like another era has begun with the Dutch side Ajax, a group of young lads have done well for themselves this season. Ajax manager, Erik Ten Hag’s team has performed so well in the current campaign, getting remarkable results especially away from home, Erik side has not lost away from home this UCL campaign, including a 1 all draw at the Allianz Arena, Bayern. The youthful side with an average age of 24, includes much sorts after duo of, Matthijs De Ligt and Frankie De Jong, strikers, Kasper Dolberg and Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech among others.
Ajax defeat of Real Madrid was a remarkable feat, and the lads deserved all the accolades that are been showered on them. They joined a group of trio clubs to have scored 4 or more goals at the Santiago Bernabeu, they become only the 2nd team to eliminate Real Madrid from European competition knockout tie, having lost the home tie. Does this herald another golden era in with the Dutch club, time will certainly tell?
Roger Federer once again proves that age is just a number, as he achieved another milestone in his illustrious career. He now writes his name in the history book by becoming the 2nd male tennis player to win and reach a 100 ATP singles title, with his Dubai Championship triumph over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 37-year-old Federer is now just 9 singles titles shot of equaling the most title wins, a position that is currently being held by Americas Jimmy Connors, who is on 109 singles titles.
What more can one write about a man that has dominated the sport, Roger Federer broke into world stage since 1998, during an era that includes great tennis players such as the duo of Americans Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt to mention few, Roger Federer has not looked back since then.
Federer started 2019 tennis season on a winning note, with a successful defence of the Hopman Cup alongside female countrywoman, Belinda Bencic( who also won the female singles in Dubai). However, a disappointing 4th-round defeat to rising star, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas meant, there won’t be a 3rd-time defence of the Australian Open for Federer.
Federer’s hunger for more glory was reiterated recently when he said he aimed for more titles and not ATP top ranking, and he showed such hunger with another championship win, his 8th title in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, adding to his victories in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2012, 2014 and his 2015 victory over archrival, Novak Djokovic.
En route to his triumph, Federer dropped 2 sets, certainly not one of his vintage performances, but he got the job done. A round of 32 wins, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win over German’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, then, he dropped his 2nd set in the tournament with a round of 16 victories, 6-3, 3-6 6-3 win over Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco, for a place in the quarter-final. His quarter-final contest was also exhausting as Federer was stretched into a tie-breaker, a 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 win over Hungarian, Marton Fucsovic. A much easier win for Federer in the semi-final over Croatian, Borna Coric, 6-2, 6-2 straight set triumph. The final was against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Federer’s conqueror at the Australian Open, a couple of months ago. This time, the Swiss Maestro got his revenge, a 6-4,6-4 straight set win over Tsitsipas.
8th Dubai Championship for Federer, 100th career title win and still counting, give it up to the Swiss Maestro, Roger that!
The English Premier League 2018-19 season is not over, yet, another manager had been shown the exit door, Claude Puel of Leicester had been replaced by former Celtic Manager, Brenda Rodgers. This managerial replacement at Leicester made it the 5th across the EPL in the current campaign, having seen Fulham replaced Slavia Jokanovic with Claudio Ranieri, Southampton replaced Mark Hughes with Ralph Hasenhuttl, Manchester United replaced Jose Mourinho with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Huddersfield replaced David Wagner with Jan Siewert, Who says coaching job is an easy one?
OUT GONE CLAUDE PUEL;
Puel was sacked after just 16 months in charge of Leicester City. He led Leicester to a 9th place finish in his 1st season, 2017-18, after taking over from Craig Shakespeare, but a string of poor results has seen his Leicester City team falling down the EPL log table, 12th place, just 8 points from safety, and any hope for European qualification is all but gone.
Leicester poor run started since the turn of the year, since the new year day 1 nil away victory over Everton, the team has been on a free fall, a 7-match-winless run in all competitions, a poor run that includes a FA Cup 3rd-round 1-2 defeat to lowly Newport County, and 5-EPL defeats and a single draw out of 6 EPL matches, just 1 point out of a possible 18 points. Leicester had also lost her last 4 home matches during this poor run, the last time Leicester lose 4 or more (5) home matches in a row was in 1959, some 60 years ago, and the last time Leicester lost 4-EPL matches in a row was in December 1999, a run that extended into January, into a 7-match winless run. They have also conceded 15 league goals since the new year, only Cardiff City had conceded more this year.
It’s hard to figure out what went wrong. Tracking back to December last year, Leicester was flying, a remarkable 1 nil defeat of Chelsea at the Bridge was quickly followed by a 2-1 home win over high-flying Manchester City, but then, a disappointing home loss to Cardiff City laid the foundation for what followed in months after.
Claude Puel had now joined the growing list of mid-season manager casualties, and also joined Leicesters list of sacked manager, 3rd in just less than 2 years.
CAME BRENDAN RODGERS;
Rodgers needs no introduction to the EPL clubs and fans, his feat at Swansea City especially, announced him to the EPL, as he managed and helped Swansea City gain promotion into the EPL, and became the 1st Walsh club to do so. His managerial touch made Liverpool came calling in 2012, to replace King Kenny Dalglish. Rodgers helped built the famous, deadly, strike combination trio, SSS; Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling, and were on the brink of winning the 2013-14 EPL title for the 1st time in 28 years, but an unfortunate and infamous Steven Gerrard slip, put the dream to the sword, and ultimately Rodgers reign at Anfield came to an end in 2015.
However, Rodgers quest for glory would soon be realized in the Scottish Premier League. Neil Lennon had just left his post as Celtic manager, and Rodgers soon took over at Celtic Park in 2016. In his 1st season in charge, Rodgers won a domestic tremble; Scottish Premier League title (with 30 points ahead of 2nd placed Aberdeen), Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup, setting a record of 47-domestic-unbeaten run in the process. Rodgers repeated his 1st season success by retaining the tremble in his 2nd season. He had already won the Scottish League Cup for the current campaign, bringing is a total hall to 7. Safe to say Leicester got a manager with a champions mentality.
The burning question is, has Rodgers taken the right decision? No doubt he wanted a new challenge, having won everything that needed to be won in Scottish football, but taking the job of a struggling club might stain his credentials, all the new managers brought in by Fulham, Southampton and Huddersfield have not been able to improve situations on the ground.
Can Brendan Rodgers perform the magic at Leicester and turn around their fortune? Time will tell.
ps: all images are Getty Images, and blog can be found on my Scorum account
Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri may have sealed his fate at the hands of Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovic. The Chelsea owner still hurting from the 0-6 humiliation of his Chelsea club since he assumed ownership, was slapped in the face with another damaging FA cup exit, 0-2 home loss to Manchester United. Victory over FC Malmo in the Europa Cup on Thursday night a much needed respite, but EFL Cup final defeat against familiar adversary, Manchester City on Sunday, may have ended Sarri’s reign at the Bridge, as news making the rounds already suggested that Chelsea chiefs are already considering the duo of former Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane and former home ace, Frank Lampard as Sarri’s likely replacement.
Sarri started his reign at the bridge with an early-season-winning run, but things have changed since those remarkable start. So, what went wrong for Sarri and his tactics? How did things get to this stage? He has not even completed a season, and yet, he is about to join the growing names of Chelsea mid-season casualties as shown above;
SAME OLD POSSESSIVE PLAY AKA SARRIBALL;
Sarri’s possessive play, better known at the Bridge as Sarriball seems not to be bringing the early-season success, and with seemingly no plan B to navigate this hard time. Clubs like Burnley are very difficult to break down by just passing the ball around, you’ve got to go long and direct if need be to win against difficult teams as such, how many times have we seen Liverpool rescued a result from long balls and setpieces. Chelsea is failing in this direction and the blame has to be Sarri’s, who remains adamant on his Sarriball style of play. According to Skysports stat, Chelsea’s possessive play is not bringing success or results as much as it does for Manchester City and Liverpool who are also rank high with possessive play, Chelsea’s possessive play is not resulting as much as it should into chances created or goal.
JORGINHO OVER KANTE AS MIDFIELD ANCHOR MAN;
Sarri remained defiant playing Jorginho rather than Kante in the holding midfield role despite strings of poor results, raised more question than answers. There is no denial of the fact that Sarri and Jorginho know each other too well from their time at Napoli, and bringing Jorginho to Chelsea seems sensible, but Chelsea already has a world class player in the holding midfield role, Ngolo Kante. Kante’s exploits as an anchor-midfield man are well documented, right from his breakthrough season with surprise English Premier League winner, Leicester, to his warrior-like display to help Chelsea win back the League title, and not to forget his 2018 FIFA World cup heroics with France, all as the midfield anchorman. Yet, Sarri favours Jorginho over Kante, even when Jorginho is sometimes out of sorts. Clubs seem to have decoded Sarri’s tactics, stop Jorginho and you will stop Chelsea, such were the stories when Chelsea played Westham, Everton, Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United to mention few.
Sarri’s like-for-like substitution is well too predictable, either in victories or in defeats, it is all too similar. Ross Barkley for Mateo Kovacic substitution is growing too popular, the latest duo interchange in the FA Cup defeat to Manchester United was the 20th times in all competitions that both players will be swapped for each other under Maurizio Sarri. Chelsea’s other talented midfield players that are being constantly overlooked by Sarri includes the duo of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and enterprising young winger, C. Hudson-Odoi who can both come in and win a match, little wonder some of these lads are refusing a new contract.
Managers are known for being too adamant and defiant with their approach and philosophy, and it has really not helped most of these Coaches and certainly might not help Sarri too. We’ve seen the likes of Arsene Wenger, who despite widespread calls for him to change his approach, to invest in a weakened Arsenal defence year in, year out, but he refused, and he ultimately paid for his stubbornness, as his long-year affair with Arsenal was brought to a less ceremonial end.
The English Premier League is a tough league, managers have to be dynamic and unpredictable with their tactics and approach, any manager who failed to do that will have himself to blame, other managers will figure him out. It seems to me that Sarri has failed with his tactics, or maybe he just needs more time to perfect his tactics and his Sarriball style.
What do you all think?
Ps: Images and stats shown are BBCSports, and blog can be found on my Scorum account
Plenty to talk about from English weekend football, both English Premier League and English Championship presents a kind of competitiveness that makes them one of the most watch around the world, this weekend was not an exception. Plus, the EFL Cup final between Manchester City and Chelsea, it’s barely 2 weeks since City thrashed the Blues 6-0, a nail-biting defeat that certainly set the tone for this cup final.
CITY’S QUEST FOR QUADRUPLE IS ALIVE;
Where else can one start the weekend review than the EFL Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester City? Chelsea aiming to avoid a repeat of the humiliation suffered at the hand of their opponent some couple of weeks ago, adopted a more cautious approach this time, allowing City to have the possession but with no real threat to them. City still managed 3 shots on target compared to Chelsea’s 1, but no breakthrough, not even extra time could produce a goal, thus, the ultimate spot kick to decide the contest. After enjoying success last season from the FA-Cup-shootout win over Manchester United, Chelsea were hoping to repeat the feat against City, but poor kicks from firstly, Jorginho and then, David Luiz, meant Chelsea would leave Wembley Stadium empty-handed, while City, despite losing a spot kick through Leroy Sane, still won 4-3 from the shootout, and Manchester City’s quest for 4 trophies still very much alive with EFL Cup in the bag.
HARRY KANE’S RETURN MARRED BY SPURS DEFEAT;
Tottenham Hotspur title push may have hit a snag, with a damaging defeat at Turf Moor, Burnley. Spurs were beaten 2-1, to slip 5 points further behind 2nd on the log, Manchester City. News of Spurs leading scorer, Harry Kane’s early return from injury ahead of initial March schedule was met with excitement and joy among Spurs officials, teammates and fans, but Kane’s return was marred with a defeat. Burnley yet again showed they are a tough nut to crack, they seem to have shrugged off their early season poor performances, with just one defeat ( to Man City) in their last 8 matches, a run that includes a remarkable 2 all draw at Manchester United to halt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning gravy train.
It was the visitors that took the early ascendancy as expected, but with no real threat to Burnley’s goal, Burnley was happy to sit back and weather all storm blew at them by Spurs, and find their goal in customary Burnley fashion, fast breaks and set pieces. The 2nd half was where all the action were, as Burnley took the game to Spurs, Burnley took a 57th-minute lead through Chris Wood via a disputable corner kick, Harry Kane showed no sign of rustiness from injury lay-off, with a come-back goal, to level matters in the 65 minutes, but spirited Burnley got their deserved winning goal in the 83rd minute through Ashley Barnes, to end the contest 2-1. Burnley’s run of unbeaten 2019 continues while Spurs slim chance of title further fades away.
FULHAM DESTINED FOR RELEGATION;
The Cottagers are having a torrid season, and are languishing in relegation waters, not even the appointment of the Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri could transform the fortune of the West London Club.
Looking for their 1st win since the 4-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the end of January, Fulham took an early 3-minute lead through the Dutchman, Ryan Babel, in the London derby, over Westham United, but a 29th-minute controversial equalizer by Javier Hernandez put Fulham on the path of defeat, replay showed that the Mexican had scored with his hand, but the goal stood. Issa Diop’s 40th min header and Michail Antonio’s goal sealed the comeback win for the Hammers. It was Fulham’s 18th league defeat of the current campaign, and are still rooted on 2nd from bottom on leg table with just 17 points from 27 matches, with a huge -35 goal deficit, only a miracle can prevent a relegation.
INJURY-RAVAGED CONTEST AT OLD TRAFFORD;
The much talked about rivalry match between title favourite, Liverpool and rejuvenate Manchester United ended in a goalless stalemate. It was almost a horror show rather than an entertaining showpiece, with 4 1st-half injuries that took the delight out of the game. Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was forced into making all his substitution in the 1st half due to injuries, both Ander Harrera and Juan Mata got injured in quick succession, firstly, it was Herrera in the 21st minute, and Mata just 4 minutes later, both players were replaced by Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard respectively. It got uglier for United when substitute, Lingard limped off, to be replaced by Alexis Sanchez in the 43rd minute. Liverpool was slammed with their own injury worry too, stylish striker, Roberto Firmino was replaced in the 31st minute by Daniel Sturridge.
A point was enough to move Liverpool back to the summit of the EPL table on 66 points, a point ahead of title challenger, Manchester City, in 2nd place, and 6 points clear of 3rd place team, Spurs.
CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE RACE IS 3-HORSE RATHER THAN 2-HORSE RACE;
Championship title race gets even more interesting now, with Sheffield United thrown into the mix, alongside Norwich City and Leeds United. The blades as Sheffield United are popularly called, have been on a 5-match unbeaten run prior to Saturday’s victory over West Bromwich Albion, they now sit in 2nd position on the Championship log table with 64 points after 34 matches played, just 2 points adrift of log leader, Norwich City, with Leeds United also on 64 points, having played a game less.
It could be recalled that both Norwich City and Leeds United recorded a slim win respectively, to keep the race hot and to the wire. Table topper, Norwich, held on to their grip on top with a hard-fought 3-2 home victory over Bristol City, while Leeds also had a 2-1 home victory over struggler, Bolton Wanderers to stay in touch with Norwich and Sheffield United.
DERBY COUNTY IN DANGER OF MISSING THE PLAYOFFS;
Frank Lampard has done a very great job since he assumed the managerial role at Derby County, his good works have not gone unnoticed by his former club, Chelsea, who are considering him to take over at the Bridge. However, Derby’s push for promotion either through the automatic slot (which seems so unlikely) or the playoffs (which is more attainable), was hampered with a damaging 0-1 home loss against relegation-threatened, Millwall, last Wednesday. Derby County now sits on 7th place on Championship log table, just outside the playoffs spot, with 2 outstanding matches too though.
Another notable point of discussion was the home defeat of Leicester City, 1-4 by Crystal Palace on Saturday late kick-off, a defeat that signalled the end and sack of manager, Claude Puel after just 16 months in charge. Huddersfield doomed for relegation after another 0-2 loss at Newcastle United, they are rock bottom on the league table.
These were just a few spotlights of what went down in England this weekend from my points of view, you can add your talking point or spotlight in the comment section.
ps; all images are from Getty images, and can be found on my scorum account
Thank you all for taking the time out to check my blog.
The June 1st showdown between the 29-year-old Briton, Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua and the 30-year-old American, Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller draws ever closer, and thus the customary press conferences and the usual antics and mind games from the boxers had already begun with a bang.
I am never a fan of mind/psychological games, for me, it feels like boasting, haughty or pride, and like the old wise saying;
pride goes before a fall
How hard can it be, to go into the press conference, show respect for your opponent, the AJ style and let the fight’s outcome or result speak for you, just like it has been speaking for AJ, and, how ridiculous can it get, after one makes so much noise and boasting, and then, end up losing. I will rather go for the former. Yes! Most will argue that mind games are good for the sport, it helps build the momentum, and also, a lot of games/bout are won even before stepping into the battlefield, as Iron Mike Tyson used to almost always match his pre-bout antics and mind games with results, and in contrary, a certain Dereck Chisora, who despite his pre-bout war call and antics against Dillian Whyte, lost twice.
The press conference between AJ and Big baby was held at the famous Madison Square Garden, New York, USA, and it was Jarrell Miller who drew the 1st blood if mind games count. The shorter 6ft 4in Miller pushed his taller 6ft 6in opponent, Joshua off balance during their meeting on Tuesday, causing a short-lived brawl, and now, with such hostility building, boxing fans are in for explosive warfare come June.
Miller’s assault on Joshua did not end at the standoff, he further rained more insults on the current IBF, IBO, WBA & WBO champion, Joshua, saying amongst other things;
…He’s lucky I didn’t punch him in the face, but as I said, I ain’t got no time to play games. I don’t play boxing, this is what I do. Breathe, eat, sleep this c**p. …He knows that I’m not playing. I don’t care. I knock him out right now. I’m a warrior. I don’t care about any of that. …You’ve never seen anybody with mental fortitude like me, he said. No matter what he does, what he hit me with, how many punches he throws, he ain’t going to beat me, he ain’t going to stop me. …I’m a walking monster. On June 1, I’m uniting the world.
Anthony Joshua who had never encounter such bullish act since probably the pre-bout press conference to 2016 Dillian Whyte bout, in his response to Miller’s action said;
You can see Dillian Whyte – they are cut from the same cloth, I don’t expect anything else from characters like those.
A quick look into Jarrell Miller stats as shown above, he is certainly not a pushover, AJ will definitely have is work cut out against his “Monstrous” opponent who has got as much win success in the ring as Joshua. Miller who also had a successful kickboxing career from 2006-2014, with 21 wins out of 23 fights, with just 2 losses will pose a great threat to Joshua’s world titles.
Anthony Joshua needs no introduction, the British star status was rubber-stamped when he knocked out Wladimir Klitschko back in 2017 to add the WBA belt to the IBF title he won with a 2nd-round stoppage of Charles Martin in 2016. Though, boxing fans may be disappointed for his choice of Jarrell Miller, they have been hoping for a unification fight against WBC holder, Deontey Wilder, or a Tyson Fury fight or even a rematch against Dillian Whyte, AJ’s prowess is never in doubt and his 100% win record as shown above is a testimony to that.
Boxing fans around the world eagerly await next episode of AJ-Big Babys mind games.
ps: images are BBCSports’ and GettyImages’
Thank you all for taking the time out to check my blog.
Just when you thought you have seen it all, then BOOM! it is starring right into your face all over again. 10-0 scoreline is embarrassing, but even worse is a 20-0 scoreline, which can be damaging to any leagues competitiveness. Soccer fans are still trying to wrap their head around a 10-0 scoreline in modern pro leagues, then came another 20-0 scoreline. A certain Serie C club, Pro Piacenza was pummeled 20-0 by their Serie C opponent, AC Cuneo, in a rather unfortunate fashion. One begins to wonder if it was a soccer match or a rugby game.
Serie C is the 3rd highest football division in Italia’s 9-tier-football division, and it includes 59 teams/clubs divided into 3 groups of 20:20:19 (Grp A: Grp B: Grp C) respectively. Both AC Cuneo and Pro Piacenza are in Group A of Serie C, and both also sit in the bottom half of the league table, While Cuneo sits on 13th position, it is ever relegation battle for Pro Piacenza who sits rock bottom on the league table.
Pro Piacenza, also known as the Rossoneri found themselves making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It was a mess that started way back last year, 2018, and remained unresolved till the present day. Players went on strike action over months of unpaid wages prior to a league fixture against log leaders, Pro Vercelli, adding insult to Pro Piacenza injury was the local council who sealed up the Rossoneri’s rented home stadium, Stadio Garilli over unpaid fees. With all the internal crisis, Pro Piacenza was unable to put together a team for matches, which in effect meant an automatic 3 goals, 3 points conceded. The league rule stipulates that if a team/club failed to turn up for 5 leagues fixtures, such club will be liable to expulsion from the league, in a bid to avoid expulsion, Pro Piacenza rallied a team for the match against AC Cuneo.
With most 1st team players still out on strike, Pro Piacenza turned out against AC Cuneo with just 7 players, a 7-man team that includes 6 teenagers among which an 18-year-old Nicola Cirigliano dua as team captain and team coach, hilarious huh! FIFA rules stipulate that the minimum number with which a team can start/begin a match is 7. So, the Rossoneri had just enough to begin the match against AC Cuneo, a huge mistake on their path.
Pro Piacenza was thrashed 20-0, as AC Cuneo went riot with 7 different scorers. The goals started raining down as early as the 3rd minute, and by half time, it was 16 nil, 4 more goals at the restart condemn Pro Piacenza to a humiliating defeat.
AC Cuneo who had only scored 18 goals in their previous 24 league matches, now double their seasons tally in just 1 match.
After the match, a worried and disappointed President of the Italian Football Federation described the result as;
insult to the sport,…Our responsibility is to protect the passion of the fans, healthy entrepreneurs and credibility of our championships,…The one we unfortunately witnessed will be the last farce.
Now, CD Nacional who lost 0-10 a couple of weeks ago and her fans can breathe a sigh of relief, a much-needed respite at a point in need. Conceding 10 goals apparently is not the worst scoreline anymore.
Do you think scorelines such as 10-0, 20-0 at any league division is good for football?
Tottenham Hotspur made it 4 straight wins in all competitions since Harry Kane and Dele Alli got injured, having defeated their German opponent, Borrusia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday night. The win followed Spurs wins over Leicester City, Newcastle United, and Watford respectively in the English Premier League, and 1 man who is leading Spurs charges for glory in the absence of 2 of Spurs’ main players, Kane and Alli, is the South Korean Ace, Son Heung-Min. The Spurs forward has been crucial to Spurs’ wins since his arrival from international duty(Asian Cup), scoring a goal each in all the 4 matches mentioned earlier.
When the news 1st broke out that Spurs’ striker, Harry Kane and Midfielder, Dele Alli would be out on treatment table until March, it was met with so many long faces and disgruntled Spurs fans, and in all fairness, they could be cut some slacks, both Kane and Alli had been so instrumental in Spurs 4-front-title chase, both could have made a difference had they played in the Chelsea and Crystal Palace losses, plus, the injury news came at a time when another important Spurs player, Son Heung-Min was away on international duty. Though, Spurs Manager, Mauricio Pochettino tried to allay the fans fear and concern by saying his team have enough firepower to continue the title charge without the trio, but a back-to-back defeats/exits from cup competitions at the hands of Chelsea in the EFL Cup, and Crystal Palace in the FA Cup 4th round, aggravated fans concern, but just when it seems Spurs title charges are over, there came a light at the end of the tunnel, South Koreas quarter-final exit at the Asian Cup meant Son would be returning to Spurs earlier than expected, and boy what an instant impact he has made since his return.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3-0 BORUSSIA DORTMUND UCL ROUND 16
Spurs played host to Dortmund on Wednesday nights UCL round of 16, It was a match few could have predicted the scoreline. Spurs were widely expected to have it tough against the German club, but it was not that tough after all, the home side got a deserved and comfortable 3 nil win. Guess who set the ball rolling? You guessed it right, Son Heung-Min. Spurs wing back on the day, Jan Vertonghens pitch-perfect cross was met with Son’s right-side-footed volley to score 1st goal, out of the night’s 3 goals for Spurs. It turned out Son loves playing against Dortmund, BBCSports stat tells that, Son’s goal on the night was his 9th against Borussia Dortmund in 11 games in all competition.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3-1 LEICESTER CITY EPL MATCHDAY 26
Spurs played host to Leicester City in an English Premier League match-day 26. Spurs still without the duo of Kane and Alli, up against a team that had defeated title chaser, Manchester City and Chelsea in this current campaign, but yet again, Spurs won with a convincing 3-1 scoreline. Davinson Sanchez and Christian Erikson and given Spurs lead, but Jamie Vardy pulled 1 back to make the scoreline 2-1, and just when it looked like Leicester will complete a fightback, Spurs sealed the win with the 3rd goal through, yes, you got the name right, Son Heung-Min. A Spurs break-away put Son through on Leicester goal from inside Spurs half, the Korean race on, and with the keeper to beat, He coolly scored.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1-0 NEWCASTLE UNITED EPL MATCHDAY 25
Spurs victory over Newcastle United was a hard-fought win. The Magpies, brimming with confidence after a recent victory over Manchester City, Newcastle match was a potential banana peel. It took a late 83rd-minute strike from Spurs ace, Son Heung-Min again, to break down the Magpies, a man-of-match performance from Son that got his manager elated
Sonny is like a battery that you have, you work, work, work until the battery is gone…He gives you everything… said Pochettino.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2-1 WATFORD FC EPL MATCHDAY 24
Spurs 4-match-winning streak started against Watford, Spurs were just coming back from a back-to-back defeat at hands of Chelsea and Crystal Palace, and then needed a hero to inspire the team, a hero they found in Son Heung-Min, who had just returned from International duty. It was an EPL match against high- flying Watford Fc which had not lost in 5 straight matches. Watford scored 1st through Craig Cathcart, it took 42 minutes for Spurs to level up, thanks to their South Korean Striker, Son Heung-Min, 6 minutes later, Spurs went ahead through their Spaniard, Fernando Llorente who sealed the win with a header.
Son Heung-Min might not be making the headlines as he should, his importance to the Tottenham Hotspur team is as valuable as Harry Kane’s and Dele Alli’s, and statistics duly shows that Son Heung-min’s 11 goals and 5 assists made it 16-goal involvement for Spurs in his last 12 appearances in all competitions, Son is courageously holding the fort in Kane and Alli’s absence.
Nigerian-New Zealander, Israel Adesanya defeated his opponent from Brazil, former UFC champion, Anderson Silva with a 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 unanimous scored to continue his impressive winning run of 5 straight UFC win in less than a year.
The Nigerian-born New Zealander made his mixed martial arts(MMA) debut in 2012, and he has never looked back since, winning 11 straight bouts, a feat that got Ultimate Fighting Championship(UFC) come calling, and he was signed up late in 2017. Adesanya had since won 4 straight UFC fights; a debut TKO win over Australian Rob Wilkinson at UFC 221, a split decision win over Italian Marvin Vettori at UFC on Fox 29, another unanimous decision win over America’s Brad Tavares at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale and lastly, a1st-round TKO of another American, Derek Brunson at the UFC 230. His total UFC win stands at 15-0-0 (W-L-D), what outstanding results.
Anderson Da Silva;
The 43-year-old Sao Paulo-born Brazilian is arguably regarded by some pundits as the greatest professional mixed martial artist of all time. The former UFC Middleweight Champion once ruled the sport with the longest title reign of 2,457 days that spanned over 7 years (2006-2013), his reign also includes a 16 consecutive victories, a run that was brought to an end by an American, Christopher James Weidman. Silva lost to Weidman twice in 2013 at the UFC 162 and 168 respectively. Nevertheless, Silva aka The Spider still boasts of an impressive record of 34-8-0 (W-L-D) before Adesanya’s bout. Unfortunately, Silvas career took a downward turn since his defeat against Weidman, age seemingly catching up with him, coupled with a 1-year ban from the sport for doping in late 2017. Silvas fight against Adesanya was his 1st in about 2 years.
Adesanya against Silva bout was supposed to be a co-main event contest at the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, but an unexpected injury to the UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker meant the main event on the day, Whittaker against Americas Kelvin Gastelum would be cancelled, thus, Adesanya-Silva bout was then made the main event. It was a fight of experience, 43-year-old Silva versus a younger 29-year-old Adesanya, it was the younger fighter that showed and gave more to carry the day. Adesanya landed the bigger punches, faster and showed better stamina, He quickly imposed himself right from the start, and almost connect with a left high kick in the opening round. The former champion, Silva showed why he was once a champion in the 2nd round, more blows that connected cleanly on Adesanya. With the momentum and results going the way of Adesanya, Silva tried to turn the game on its head in the 3rd and final round, but he simply did not have enough in him to do so. Adesanya was unanimously pronounced the rightful winner by the 3 judges 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27, his UFC career record now stands at 16-0-0.
In his remarks, Adesanya acknowledged his vanquisher, Silva, who he referred to as 1 of his idols, he said it’s like playing basketball against Michael Jordan. Silva who has now lost 3 of his last 4 bouts was also full of appreciation, especially to God, for another chance to fight at a top level, having been out for about 2 years.
Adesanya is on the right path to challenging for the middleweight title, if he continues in this form and streak, the sky is his limit.
All images are from getty images, and blog can also be found on my scorum account
Thank you all for taking time out to read, support and comment.
Rangers bid of securing a Scottish Premiership title for the 1st time in about 8 seasons was kept alive with a resounding 4-2 win over hot on their heels and 3rd on log table, Aberdeen on Wednesday evening, goals from Alfredo Morelos, James Tavernier and substitute, Jermain Defoe secured Gerrard-led Rangers’ 4th win in a row.
The matchup between these 2 clubs had always been feisty, in fact, the last 2-league meetings had produced 3 red cards, 1 for Aberdeen’s Sam Cosgrove and 2 for Alfredo Morelos, seems Morelos have a personal vendetta against Aberdeen. Also, the last 3 meetings had seen Rangers dominated proceedings but were undone twice by a 1-nil scoreline and the 3rd match ended in a draw.
There had been much debate whether Rangers coach Steven Gerrard should stick to his 4-3-3 that has brought him an instant success at Ibrox or deploy a traditional 4-4-2 formation to accommodate new loan signing, Jermain Defoe and in-form striker, Alfredo Morelos. Both players were used in a 4-4-2 formation against Kilmarnock some 4 matches ago, but ended up losing 1-2, Gerrard quickly debunked the notion that the loss was due to change of tactics and formation, he resorted back to the preferred 4-3-3 and Rangers had gone on to win 4 in a row including this win over Aberdeen.
Key Moments: Aberdeen 2-4 Rangers,
It was an entertaining end-to-end matchup that contained everything a match has to offer, Goals, Spot-kicks, Cautions and Dismissals;
20′ ; It was Rangers who lit up the stadium in the 20th minute, when Liverpool loanee and in-form Rangers forward, Ryan Kent made a run into the box and then fired a shot at Joe Lewis in Aberdeen goal, the goalkeeper could only parry the ball unto the path of Morelos who duly obliged and scored.
31′ ; Aberdeen would not go down without a fight on home turf, just 11 minutes after they conceded, Aberdeen responded with an equalizer through the Scottish league top scorer, Sam Cosgrove. Almost a replica of Rangers goal, Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson well-connected volley ricocheted off Rangers’ players and fell unto the path of Cosgrove, who side-footed into the net.
38′ ; Rangers really meant business and regained the lead, once again, it was Kent-Morelos combination, the lively forward was a constant menace to the Aberdeen defence, and his pass picked out Morelos who left-footed into the bottom corner.
43′ ; Rangers steered clear with the 3rd goal, another penalty in their favour, making it the 4th spot-kicks in last 2 league matches ( scored 3 spot- kicks in their 4-0 victory over St Mirren). James Tavernier initial free-kick was handled in the box by Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna, Rangers’ captain duly scored his 3rd from 12 yards in last 2 games.
47′ ; The 2nd half barely started when Aberdeen pulled 1 more goal back, Sam Cosgrove drew a foul from Rangers captain, Tavernier and the referee pointed to the spot, Cosgrove dusted himself up to tuck away the spot-kick to make the scoreline 2-3.
55′ ; Alfredo Morelos found himself in the bad book again, the Colombian, just like his 2 previous matches against Aberdeen, was sent off after involving in a tangle with Aberdeen’s James McKenna, the referee, Bobby Madden also sent off McKenna for violent play.
90+4′ ; With both teams playing with 10 men, it was all Aberdeen trying to find the equalizer, they threw bodies forward and left themselves open at the back and were duly put to sword by Rangers, a quick break-away saw substitute, Jermain Defoe unmarked at the far end, and he smartly fired home the 4th for Rangers.
Rangers still sit in 2nd place on the Scottish Premier League, 6 points adrift of log leader, Celtic, but are now 5-point clear of their rival, Aberdeen in 3rd place.
Steven Gerrard has not even completed a season as Rangers manager yet, but he is already making a name for himself not just at Ibrox but in the league at large. If he can upstage Celtic to the league title remains to be seen, that will be one headliner if he does.
note: images are BBCSports’ and blog can be found on my Scorum account also
LeBron James became only the 5th player in the history of the NBA to score +32,000 (32,008) points after scoring 18 points in Wednesdays match up with the Indiana Pacers, sadly, LeBron ended up on the losing end after the LA Lakers went down 94-136 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Arena, home of the Pacers. LeBron now suffered the worst defeat of his illustrious NBA career, having not previously lost by more than 36 points to any team, the defeat condemned Lakers to another back-to-back lost in this calendar year having lost 101-115 to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
LeBron James returned to the lineup after been rested in the loss against the Warriors, but he could do little as the Lakers back-and-forth season continues with the 27th defeat of the regular season, winning 27 and sit 10th on the Western Conference log table.
Indiana Pacers were on a run of 4-straight defeats before they rallied with a back-to-back wins, the losses respectively includes ; a 103-106 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, a 100-132 loss to the Golden State Warriors, a 87-107 loss against the Washington Wizards and then a 100-107 defeat at the hands of the Orlando Magic, but they snapped out of those defeats with a hard-fought 95-88 win over the Miami Heat and another narrow 109-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, what a recovery they have now, with the 3rd straight win over Lakers.
Despite not been at his usual ruthlessness, having recently returned from a groin injury, LeBron still led his teammates in points (18), rebounds (7), and assist (9), but the overall performance of the Lakers was abysmal, Lakers only scored 4 3-pointers all game compared to Pacers 19 3-pointers. It was all Pacers from the start to finish, the Lakers could not even win a quarter of the 4 quarters. Lakers had 5 players in double figures, the closest to LeBron’s points was JaVale McGee who played just 15 minutes and scored 16 points, 4 rebounds with no assist, followed by Lance Stephenson with 13 points, a rebound and 2 assists, Brando Ingram and Kyle Kuzma had 12 points each, Ingram with 6 rebounds and an assist, and Kuzma with a rebound, no assist, Lakers seem ordinary without a fully fit LeBron.
Indiana Pacers on their path did the needful, they successfully limited LeBron’s influence on the game, Pacers outscored the Lakers in all quarters, by the time it was half time, Pacers had opened up a 23-points gap, with a score of 69-46 points. The onslaught continued in the 2nd half, as the Pacers ensured that the day belongs to them and not LeBron with a full-time score of 136-94. 7 players were on double figure for the Pacers, led by Bojan Bogdanovic’s game-high 24 points, a rebound and 5 assist, he was closely followed by teammate, Myles Turner with 22 points and a rebound, Domantas Sabonis had 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, Aaron Holiday and Edmond Summer also had 17 points, Holiday with a rebound and 3 assists, while Summer had 2 rebounds, other players are Cory Joseph, who had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists and Thaddeus Young who also had a decent 21-minute game and scored 12 points, game-high 11 rebound and 8 assists, a remarkable display by the Indiana Pacers.
Brando Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and others need to come to the party and support LeBron James if Lakers really want to be a force to reckon with, no wonder the widely speculated news of LeBron pushing for a Lakers’ trade for New Orleans Pelicans star, Anthony Davis.
It was indeed a milestone achievement for the King, LeBron James, but one he will remember for the good and ugly.
ps; images from BBCSports, Sportstoday and Getty Images
The 17th edition of the continental football showpiece, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup has been decided, After a 4-long week of fiest competitions that started on the 5th of January and ended on 1st February of current year, between 24 teams, UAE 2019 final match was contested between 4-time winner, Japan and the oil-rich nation, 2022 FIFA world cup host, Qatar, and the deserved champion is Qatar. The Maroon defeated Japan 3-1 to win the Asian Cup for the 1st time ever.
JAPAN: The Samurai Blues are the tournament most successful team with 4 titles to their name, prior to the final match: 1992; Japan hosted and won the championship defeating Saudi Arabia 1 nil in the final. 2000; After failing to defend their title in 1996, Japan returned to Lebanon to reclaim the title with a 4-1 win over the defending champion at the time, Saudi Arabia. 2004; Japan successfully defended her title with a 3-1 win over host, China. 2011; Japan last triumph came at Qatar with a narrow 1 nil win over Australia. The Samurai Blues had scored 11 goals in their 6 matches played before the final and conceded 3, a slight worry against an unstoppable force like Qatar. Japan’s run to the final includes;
3-0 Iran (semifinal)
1-0 Vietnam (quarterfinal)
1-0 Saudi Arabia (round of 16)
2-1 Uzbekistan (group stage)
1-0 Oman (group stage)
3-2 Turkmenistan (group stage)
QATAR: The Maroons had never been in the Asian cup final before, despite hosting in 2 different occasions, firstly, in 1988, when they hosted and never made it out of the group stage, then, in 2011, in which they were knocked out 3-2 in the quarterfinals by the eventual winners, Japan. In a bid to have a reputable tournament in the 2022 world cup, Qatari football federation promoted former youth coach, Spaniard, Felix Sanchez Bas to handle the senior team, and boy what an impact Sanchez has had over the Qatari team. The Maroons had not conceded a single goal in the 6 matches played prior to the final, scoring 16 goals in those matches, they were not just an immovable object, they were also an unstoppable force. Qatar’s run to the final includes;
4-0 UAE (semifinal)
1-0 South Korea (quarterfinal)
1-0 Iraq (round of 16)
2-0 Saudi Arabia (group stage)
6-0 North Korea (group stage)
2-0 Lybia (group stage)
The buildup to the game as seen host nation, UAE filed a protest against the legibility of 2 of Qatar’s players. Tournament top scorer, Almoez Ali (8 goals before the final match) and son of former Iraqi international, Bassam Al-Rawi were both alleged to be ineligible, However, UAE’s claims were thrown out and thus both players were given the all clear by AFC.
It was the Samurai Blue that took the early initiatives to the Qatari but they just could not break down the defensive wall put up by Sanchez lads, Against the run of play, it was Qatar that drew the 1st blood in the 12th minute through, you guessed it right! Almoez Ali for his 9th goal of the tournament, Almoez was afforded too much space and time to turn and control before taking a spectacular over-head kick past Japan’s goalkeeper, Shuichi Gonda. Japan prowl and probe for an equalizer but was stunned instead in the 27th minute with another beauty of a curler from outside the box through Hatem Abdulaziz. Finally, Qatar’s defence was bridged for the 1st time in the tournament when Japan’s Takumi Minamino’s 69th-minute chip over Qatar’s goalkeeper made it 2-1. Unfortunately, Japan’s rally for an equalizer was hampered in the 83rd minutes when Japan’s Maya Yoshida was penalised for handling the ball in the box, Qatar’s Akram Hassan Afif duly converted the resulting spot kick, 3-1 it ended. Astonishingly, all the 4 goals in the match came from the only 4 attempts on targets, the ESPN statistics throws more light on the contest. Japan’s quest for a record-extending 5th title will have to wait for another 4 years. Qatar not just boast of a formidable attack, but also boast of a dependable defence and had shown the world they are battle ready for the next world cup. Tournament top scorer, Almoez Ali was also named the tournament MVP.
The Asian Cup UAE 2019 is going to be contested by the 4-time winner and the oil-rich nation, Qatar. The Samurai Blue clinically broke down Iran’s impregnable defensive wall with 3 unreplied goals to stake a claim in Friday’s final, while The Maroons as Qatar are known reached their 1st ever final by putting 4 goals past the host, UAE and yet to concede a goal.
Having not conceded a single goal in the tournament prior to the match against Japan, Iran seems like an immovable force, the Carlos Queiroz tutored side hopes to go one better with such impressive defence against experience and dogged Japanese side who knows how to grind out results in difficult circumstances. The table was set at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, as about 23000 crowd cheers on in favour of Iran expectedly, Despite this, Japan showed their experience and quickly took early ascendancy of the match, about 66% of the possession to Irans 34%, but Iran grew in confidence as the match progress and took over possession. It was a competitive 1st half with no goal.
The real action started in the 2nd half as the goals rained in, 11 minutes into 2nd half, Japan had a breakthrough goal, Iran’s defender neglected his duty to complain to the referee about a call that never came, the Japanese player in question raced to pick up the loose ball and swung in a cross to an unmarked teammate, Werder Bremen striker, Yuya Osaka to nod in a 54th-minute goal. Yuya Osaka scored again in the 67th minutes from the penalty spot after Irans Morteza Pouraliganji handled the ball in the area. Iran huff and puff to get back into the match but to no avail. The Icing was put on Japans cake in the stoppage time, 90+2 minutes when Genki Haraguchi scored the 3rd goal. Japan 3 goals came out of a few 4 shots on target, how clinical can they be compared to Iran’s 2 shots with no goal.
Qatar and UAE have both had a great tournament so far, having reached the semifinals defeating the likes of South Korea and Australia respectively along the way. Both teams squared up in a gingerly poised contest, and what a match it turned out to be. The host knew they had it all to do if they are to go past a Qatari defensive strong wall, and we’re hoping their 12th player, the home supporters could help jeer the Qatari wall down, it was not meant to be. Playing under the watchful eyes of over 38000 supporting crowd, UAE failed to break down Qatar’s back 4. The crowd jeered and booed the Maroons, but despite all, it was Qatar who shocked and silenced the home crowd with a 22nd-minute goal through Boualem Khoukhi, who raced away and side-footed through and under UAE goalkeeper, Khalid Lisa’s hands, the goal sparked a reaction from the crowd who rained down missiles unto the pitch, however, it did not dampen Qatar’s spirit as they got their 2nd goal in the 37th minute through a fine curler just at the edge of the box from Qatar’s Almoez Ali.
The host fans had hoped for a turn around in the 2nd half, but it was the Maroons who picked up from where they left it with another breakaway goal in the 80th minute, Hassan Al Hagdos latched unto teammate, Akram Hassan Afif’s flick to chip over the on-rushing UAE goalkeeper, it was game over at this point yet there were still late dramas, a stoppage-time red card to UAE’s Ismail Ahmed for elbowing Qatar’s Salem Al Harris face after a VAR review, and then, Qatar’s 4th goal in stoppage-time 90+3 through Hamid Ismail, to complete the onslaught. The 2022 FIFA World Cup host will play in the Asian Cup for the 1st time in their history and did so without conceding a single goal yet all tournament. The Felix Sanchez Bas’ team are truly moving in the right direction in preparation for the world cup.
Japan vs Qatar is going to be a great and entertaining match up, judging by the past meetings between this 2, Japan looks the favourite having won their last encounter 3-2, and in fact, won 2 and drew 1 over Qatar in the last 3 matches. So will it be The Samurai Blues or The Maroons come Friday evening? Time will tell.
The Asian Cup, UAE 2019 has now reached the semi-finals, and among the teams that were eliminated included the defending champion, Australia, pre-tournament favorite, South Korea, China and Vietnam, and their conquerors includes the Host, UAE, Qatar, Iran, and a new favorite, Japan.
Vietnam 0-1 Japan: The 1st quarter-final match saw the former 4-time winner, Japan squared it up with tournament surprise team, Vietnam. Playing at this stage for the 1st time ever, Vietnam had nothing to lose, Japan, on the other hand, was the favourite to progress from the match, and it was supposed to be a walk in the wood for Japan, but it seems there is no such thing as easy match in football anymore. It took a dramatic 2nd half penalty before Japan could break down a dogged Vietnam. Japan was given a lifeline by the VAR in the 57th minute after the center referee had initially dismissed Japans call for a foul in the 18-yard box on Maya Yoshida, but reversed his decision and awarded a spot-kick after a VAR review. Ritsu Doanscored the spot-kick to edge Vietnam 1 nil. Vietnam could have earned the 89th-minute equalizer but Nguyen Cong Phuong blasted the ball over from an unmarked position. Japan now faces a stern test against a former 3-time winner, Iran in the semi-final.
China 0-3 Iran:Iran proved their Asian heavyweights status by easily dispatching China 3 nil in the 2nd quarter-final match. The Carlos Queiroz tutored side came into the match with a mean defense, having not conceded a single goal so far in the tournament, and had scored a respectable 9 goals in the 4 matches they have played, while their opponents shaky defense was in question, China had conceded 4 goals in their 4 matches played so far and scored 7, Iran duly obliged, and exploited the Chinese weak defense. The Marcelo Lippi side, China were out-muscled and out-classed by the Iranians. Iran open the scores in the 18th-minute when Iranian striker, Mehdi Taremi was afforded too much space and time in the box by Chinese defenders to tucked home, 22 minutes later, it was 2 nil, Chinese defense went to sleep again as a long ball over the top found Iranian’s Sardar Azmoun who rounded the goalkeeper, Yan Junling to slot home the 2nd goal, then, a stoppage-time Iranian through ball sent Karim Ansarifard clear to score the 3rd goal. China’s long search for the 1st Asian Cup title still continues while Iran advanced to the semi-final for the 1st time since the year 2004.
South Korea 0-1 Qatar:Qatar showed the rest of the world how much they are progressing and battle ready for the next FIFA world cup which they host in 2022, by defeating pre-tournament favorite, South Korea 1 nil in the quarter-final. Qatar has shown so far in the tournament that they are a force to reckon with, having scored 11 goals in their 4 matches played and conceded none, yet they were not expected to defeat a strong force like the South Koreans. The former 2-time winner, South Korea, led by Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min, were searching for their 1st title since their last in 1960 and were highly favored to lift the UAE trophy were sent packing by a determined Qatar side. The oil-rich nation has not enjoyed a whole lot of support all-tournament due to the political tension between them and host UAE, Saudi Arabia, and some other neighboring Nations, but that did not deter Qatar from some commendable performances, and surely a big win over South Korea. It was a match with few chances created as both teams canceled each other out in front of a crowd of just below 14000 at the Zayed Sports City. The deciding goal came on the 78th minutes from the left foot of Qatar’s Abdulaziz Hatem, a long-range effort from outside the box that ended Korea’s title hope. South Korea now failed to reach the semi-final for the 1st time since the 2004 tournament and 59 years long wait for Asian Cup win continues while Qatar head into the semis as the 2nd team after Iran not to have conceded a goal after 5 matches and will now engage with the UAE in a potentially politically charged semi-final match.
UAE 1-0 Australia: The defending champion, Australia‘s quest/hope to retain her title were dashed by a spirited host, UAE. The host had had a decent run-up to this stage, having won 2 and drew 2, scoring 7 goals and conceded 4 of their 4 matches played prior to the quarter-final match against the Socceroos. With the crowd playing the 12th player role tremendously, UAE fancied their chance against an Australian team that were not at their best in the tournament, Australia recovered from a 1st group match defeat to Jordan to win their next 3, with their 3rd and round of 16 match win came in a 4-2 shoot-out victory over minnows Uzbekistan, seems the Socceroos missed their talismanic leader, Tim Cahill who had since retired after last years summer world cup. Australian defeat was their own making though, a weak back pass from Milos Degenek was intercepted by UAE’s Ali Mabkhout, who rounded up the Australian goalkeeper, Matt Ryan before slitting into an empty net, Australians felt hard done by, having seen Milos Degenek fouled in the build-up to UAE’s goal, all their protest fell into the deaf ears of the center referee. The host started with intent, with a 1st-minutes long-range attempt by Ismail Al Hammadi which was dealt with by Matt Ryan, Al Hammadi called Matt Ryan to action again in the 19th minutes. Australia had chances of their own too with Trent Sainsbury‘s looping header and Apostolos Giannou shot called UAE’s goalkeeper, Khalid Essa to smart saves too, and even had the ball at the back of the UAE net, but was ruled offside. And so, the 68th-minute UAE goal decided the contest, UAE had successfully avenged their semi-final loss to Australia 4 years ago.
The semi-final line-up;
Iran vs Japan,
Qatar vs UAE,
will be played on Monday 28th, January, will be played on Monday 28th, January, you can catch up the results and highlights on AFC ASIAN CUP, UAE 2019.
Blog can also be found on my scorum account ps: All highlights videos are from you tube
The Asian Cup, UAE 2019 round of 16 has been decided, and all the pre-tournament favorites still fight on. Among the quarterfinalists includes Australia, China, Iran Japan, Qatar, South Korea, UAE, Vietnam.
Jordan 1(2) vs 1(4) Vietnam:
Surprise quarter-finalist, Vietnam, won their round of 16 knock-out match for the 1st time in an Asian Cup at the expense of Jordan. It could be recalled that Vietnam qualified into the round of 16 by the whisker, having reached the stage via a spot in one of the 4 best 3rd-placed finishes, In contrast to Jordan who won their group B, beating Australia along the way. It was the Jordanian that took a 1st half lead through a spectacular tight corner free-kick through Baha Abdel-Rahman in the 31st minute, but the Vietnamese pegged Jordan back in the 2nd half, a Nguyen Cong Phuong‘s 51st minute shot inside the box to level matters and held on till the end of 90 minutes. The additional 30 minutes could not separate both Jordan and Vietnam and thus, it has to be decided by spot kicks. The Jordanian duo of Baha Seif (who hit the crossbar) and Ahmed Saleh (whose kick was saved) missed their kicks, while the Vietnamese had better luck with their kicks missing only 1 through Tran Minh Vuong, and then winning the kicks 4-2. Vietnam reward is a quarter-final berth against Japan.
Thailand 1 vs 2 China:
It was China‘s turn in the second round of 16 matches against Thailand. The 2-time runner up, desperately in search of their 1st ever Asian Cup title had to fight their way back from the jaws of defeat after going 1 nil down to a 31st minute goal from Thailand’s Supachai Jaided, but China leveled, thanks to their 33-year old lanky striker, Xiao Zhi, who came of the bench in the 64th minute to clinch a 67th minute equalizer, before another China forward, Gao Lin converted a 71st minute spot kick to ensure a deserved victory for China. China will host Iran in their quarter-final.
Iran 2 vs 0 Oman:
Former champion and 3-times Asian Cup winner between 1968-1976, Iran, was hoping to put to an end, their 43 years long wait for another title, and fancied their chance against lowly Oman. Having qualified from group D with 7 goals scored and none conceded, the odds favor Iran to go past Oman, who managed to qualify through the best 3rd-finish. Iran did not disappoint, with 2 1st half goals more than enough to put the game to bed, firstly, an Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s 32nd minute finish, then, an Ashkan Dejagah’s 41st-minute spot kick. Oman would have themselves to blame though, after squandering a 2nd-minute spot kick to have taken the lead, but it was not meant to be.
Japan 1vs 0 Saudi Arabia:
Match of the round was definitely between Japan and Saudi Arabia in terms of status and titles, with 7 titles shared between them, 4 for Japan and 3 for Saudi Arabia, it would not be wrong to have tagged it clash of the Titans. The last 6 matches between these two had seen them winning 3 each, it was an intriguing match with no pre-match clear cut favorite. Japan deploying a traditional 4-4-2 formation saw less of the ball, with Saudi Arabia controlling the game, having deployed a 4-1-4-1 formation. However, despite sharing the larger possession of the ball, Saudi Arabia were not clinical in front of the Japanese goal, with 15 shots and only 1 was on target, they were punished by Japan who fared better in front of goal, having just 5 shot, 2 on target, with the lone goal through Takehiro Tomiyasu. Japan now through to the quarterfinals for the 8 consecutive time in the competition.
Australia 0(4) vs 0(2) Uzbekistan:
The defending champion Australia was made to go the extra miles before they could go past Uzbekistan. It was a fairly even match that could not produce a winner after 120 minutes of football, and it had to be decided through the dreaded spot kicks. Both teams had qualified to this stage after coming 2nd from their respective group B and F, yet the odds slightly favor Australia, who had won the previous 3 matches between them and Uzbekistan scoring a combined 9 goals and conceding none. However, the Socceroos had a less admirable 1st half where they troubled-not the Uzbekistan goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov. Australia turned on the gas in the 2nd half but had Nesterov in Uzbekistan goal to beat, the ball just won’t go past him. Nesterov was eventually beaten but it was in the shootout, Australia scored 4 of their 5 spot kicks and had their own goalkeeper, Maty Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper) to thank for his heroics, saving 2 spot kicks from Uzbekistan’s Islam Tukhtakhujaev and Marat Bikmaev, and thus won 4-2. The Socceroos will now slug it out with the host UAE in the quarter-final.
UAE 3 vs 2 Kyrgyzstan:
Every tournament wants the host to go far in a competition, so, the locals will be delighted to see the host, UAE advanced into the last 8. It did not come easy though, as the host needed an extra time spot-kick winner to advanced ahead of an unfazed Kyrgyzstan. It was an even game, with both side threatened in the attack, the host slightly edge in control of the game with a 56% possession to Kyrgyzstan’s 44%. UAE got their noses in front from a Khamis Esmaeel goal, but were pegged back just 12 minutes later through Kyrgyzstan’s Mirlan Murzaev, the host regained the lead in the 64th minute through Ali Ahmed Mabkhout and thought they have secured the win but were shocked in the 90th minutes when Tursunali Rustamov equalized for Kyrgyzstan to push the game into the extra time. UAE’s blushes were saved when substitute striker, Ahmed Khalil came off the bench to net a 103rd-minute spot-kick winner.
South Korea 2 vs 1 Bahrain:
South Korea is arguably the strongest team in the tournament, the 2-time champions were expected to have it easy over Bahrain, but it was not to be, as the minnows gave a good fight, and bowed out of the tournament 1-2 after extra time with their heads held high. The Koreans had the larger share of the possession, 68% to Bahrain’s 32%, but that was as good as it got for the Koreans, it took them almost the entire 1st half to have a breakthrough, Hwang Hee-Chans 43rd minutes goal was thought to be the beginning of the in flocks of goals, but the Bahrainians were resolute, and even got their equalizer in the 77th minute through Mohamed Al Romaihi, to extend the match into extra time. South Korean made their quality counted in the extra time with a Kim Jin-Su 105th header to book a quarter-final match with Qatar.
Qatar 1 vs 0 Iraq:
Qatar came into the round of 16 with the meanest defense, having conceded zero goal in the group stage, and scoring 10 goals, and was expected to score against Iraq who on the other hand had conceded 2 goals and scored 6. In the end, it was a scrappy match in which the oil-rich nation, and 2022 world cup host edge with a lone goal, a delightful free-kick scored by Bassam Al Rawi, amazingly (or shockingly) the son of ex-Iraqi footballer international, Hisham Al-Rawi. Despite the boos aimed at the Qatari from the fans in disapproval of the Gulf blockage by Qatar, they held on to claim their victory.
The complete quarter-final line up starting from later today is as follows:
Vietnam (VIE) vs Japan (JPN)
China (CHN) vs Iran (IRN)
South Korea (KOR) vs Qatar (QAT)
United Arab Emirates (UAE) vs Australia (AUS)
For more information highlights and pictures on UAE 2019, check website
They say age is just a number, perhaps so, Manny Pacquiao certainly thinks so, the 40-year-old Filipino congressman was in scintillating form in his 70th career bout, to outbox his younger challenger, 29-year-old Adrien Broner in a unanimous decision to claim his 61st career wins and retained his WBA Welterweight title. Coming into the bout, the older Filipino weighing 146lbs was a bit lighter than his American challenger who weighed 146.5lbs, and thus, few questions were asked if the ‘Pac-Man’ has got enough stamina to cope with ‘The-Problem’ as Broner is popular called, however the Pac-Man responded emphatically, attacking Broner all the way from the start to the finish. Returning to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, USA, for the 1st time since the defeat of another American, Timothy Bradley in 2016, the Pac-Man showed more than stamina.
Round 1 started, and it was Pacquiao who got off with great intent, the round was pretty much of both boxers sizing each other out, Pacquiao turned on the heat from Round 2 on, showing much aggression and intensity, Broner was confined to holding and backing to the corners but did land a right-handed counter punch later on. Round 3 saw Pacquiao landed a clean left jab that got the crowd shouting. Round 4 was perhaps Broner’s best round as one of his left hooks made Pacquiao retreated to the ropes. The slight shift in momentum runs into Round 5 as Broner continued to counter punch Pacquiao, while the Filipino could not found a clean shot of his own. The Pac-Man regained control and landed his 23rd body shots compared to Broner’s single body shot. The crunching body shots kept coming with Broner having no answer to. Round 7 was Pacquiao’s biggest round, with countless shots and jabs to Broner’s head, Broner could only back up to the ropes and resorted to the head clinch, could have been knocked out in the round but was saved by the bell. Round 8 looked the closest of the rounds, with both boxers throwing counter punches at each other. Round 9 saw Broner reeling and backing into the red corner with hooks and jabs from Pacquiao. By then, Pacquiao seems to have lost his pace but not his aggression, and by this round had landed 42 body shots compared to Broner’s 2. Broner seems to be comfortable with Pacquiao leading the charge, he was mistaken, he should have pushed for the knock out, it was Pacquiao that finished strongly, by the time the bell rang to end the match, a Pacquiao’s win was unanimous as the judges scored in favor of Pacquiao 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112. It is now 61 wins(39 KOs), 7 losses and 2 draws for the Filipino congressman.
Manny Pacquiao had said a day earlier;
it is just a number. I have turned 40 but I still feel young and tomorrow I have something to prove, that I can still perform now at 40.
The Pac-Man said after the bout;
I really don’t think my career is over,…I proved in my last fight against Lucas Matthysse and now I proved it again. The journey will still continue.
Some of Manny Pacquiao’s finest moment includes;
▪2003 defeat of Marco Antonio Barrera, the victory was widely regarded as the one that announced the little known Pacquiao to the world.
▪2008 blockbuster bout against ‘Golden boy’ Oscar De La Hoya, the 8th round knock-out of De La Hoya was one of Pacquiao’s proudest moment.
▪2009 stunning second-round knock-out of Ricky Hatton was easily the most ruthless finish of Manny Pacquiao boxings career.
▪Still, in 2009, Manny Pacquiao defeated Miguel Cotto to become the 1st boxer to score 7 world titles in 7 different weight classes.
▪2018 knock-out of Lucas Matthysse in the 7th round showed the world that the Pac-Man still got something to offer in the ring and not just in politics.
The 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup is going thick and fast. It is a FIFA certified international men’s soccer championship that is been held every 4 years and this year’s championship is being hosted by the United Arab Emirates(UAE), started on the 5th January and will run through to 5th 1st February. It is the 1st time this championship that 24 teams will be participating in the showpiece having been increased from the 16-team format. The 24 countries include; Australia, Bahrain, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, North Korea, Oman, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Syria, Thailand, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen.
The 16 teams qualified for the round of 16 is almost completed, with just 3 places remaining to be filled up, among the already qualified are; the defending champion, Australia(2015 champion), Host UAE, 4-time champion Japan, 3-time champions Saudi Arabia and Iran, 2-time champion South Korea, China amongst others.
Host UAE emerged from this group as the winner alongside 2nd place Thailand, completing the group are Bahrain and India. It was a keenly contested group with all 4 teams getting a win each, but the host added 2 draws to their win to earn 5 points ahead of Thailand and Bahrain who managed 4 points apiece with Thailand edging Bahrain on the head-to-head advantage, leaving India at the bottom of the group with 3 points.
Group B comprised the defending champion Australia, who were given a scare of qualifying with an opening match o-1 defeat to eventual group winner Jordan, but Australia rallied with next 2 wins over other group campaigners in Palestine and Syria to earn 6 points and secure their 2nd place slot. Jordan won the group with 7 points with 2 wins including the wins over Australia and Syria and a nil-all draw against Palestine who finished in 3rd place with 2 points having drawn with Syria in their 1st match, Syria crashing out with just 1 point.
Group C paired 2 of the Asian heavyweights together, South Korea, China alongside Philippines and Kyrgyzstan completed the group. It was a straight forward win for both South Korea and China over their lesser competitors, living up to their big boys status. Then it was the battle for the group winner between these two, and it was the South Korean that claimed the bragging right with a 2 nil win over China. South Korea with maximum 9 points, scoring a total of 4 goals so far and conceding none, China finished with 6 points to qualify also for next round, Kyrgyzstan also earned a win over group whooping team Philippines to have a chance of still qualifying to the round of 16.
Group D also saw 3-time champion Iran slugged it out with seasoned campaigner Iraq, It was a stroll in the park for these 2 over other group competitors, Yemen and Vietnam. Iran with 7 goals so far from 3 matches and conceding none, qualified for the round of 16 with 7 point, edging Iraq who also finished with 7 points on goal difference, after head-to-head could not separate them both, Vietnam occupied the 3rd place with their solitary win over Yemen and hope other results go their way to qualify for next round.
3-time winner Saudi Arabia, Qatar, North Korea, and Lebanon occupied group E. It was all too easy for Saudi Arabia and Qatar who had 2 wins each over North Korea and Lebanon, both teams squared up in a supremacy matchup and it was Qatar that won the group with a 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia, Lebanon also trashed group whooping boys North Korea 4-1 but was not enough to see them earn a place in the 4 best 3rd-place finish.
Asian cup highest winner, Japan with 4 championship trophies to their name have qualified for next stage, they qualified alongside Uzbekistan, both already won 2 games each against the group’s other teams, minnows Oman and Turkmenistan. Japan and Uzbekistan squared up to determine the group winner and it was Japan that edge the contest 2-1 to top the group, while Oman secured a 3rd place finish with a 3-1 win over Turkmenistan.
4 3RD-PLACED TEAMS
The 4 best 3rd-placed team have been decided too, and Bahrain top the list of 4 with her 4 points total more than enough, closely followed by Oman, Kyrgyzstan, and Vietnam, all on 3 points each. All 4 had been added to the other 12 qualified teams in the next stage fixtures; Jordan vs Vietnam Thailand vs China Iran vs Oman Japan vs Saudi Arabia Australia vs Uzbekistan UAE vs Kyrgyzstan South Korea vs Bahrain Qatar vs Iraq.
Now that the boys are being separated from the men, it is the knock out phase and there is no room for error, the winner takes all from here on. No doubt the stand out match will be between Japan and Saudi, and whoever wins the matchup might go all the way to the final, the odds also favor South Korea, Australia to go far in the competition.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot take any foot wrong presently, the Norwegian has been an instant hit at the theater of dreams. The babyface assassin as Solskjaer was fondly called because of his ruthlessness in front of opposition goals returned to his old hunting ground this time as a caretaker manager at a period many regarded as a turbulent time for United. Not many would have expected such instant turn around, believe it or not, the results are speaking for Solskjaer. The defeat of Tottenham Hotspur makes it 5-straight win in the premier league and 6-straight in all competitions, beating former United manager Sir Matt Busby’s straight wins of 5.
Sir Alexander Matthew Busby was Manchester United manager between 1945-1969 and then 1970-71. He was one of the greatest manager Manchester United ever had second to only the greatest Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Busby’s reign at United brought a lot of laurels to Old Trafford, he started well with a winning streak of a 5-straight win which was halted by Chelsea in a 1 all draw at home.
Manchester United greatest manager to date, Sir Alex Ferguson did not have a rosy start to his reign, He started with just 1 win in his 1st 6 matches, Sir Alex started with a 2 nil defeat at Oxford United and his 1st win came in his 3rd match with a 1 nil home win of Queens Park Rangers. In fact, it was widely reported that Sir Alex was on the brink of losing his job in 1990 having been employed on November 1986, but a FA Cup win over Crystal Palace saved his job. The rest they say is now a story, Sir Alex’s 27-year reign produced trophies like never before in the club’s history.
Sunday’s win over title hopeful Tottenham Hotspur was Solskjaer 6th in a row in a competition and it was not just the win but the manner at which United was achieving the wins. The match against Spurs was regarded as Solskjaers 1st real test, only a few gave United a chance to pull such result at Wembley stadium, it was a test Solskjaer duly passed. The result now blew the race for UCL spot open and more feisty, only goals difference separates 6th placed United from 5th placed Arsenal, it could be recalled that the point gap between Arsenal and Manchester United was 8 points when Solskjaer took over from Mourinho. Solskjaer has been able to revitalize United’s underperforming big boys, it was vintage David De Gea in goal for United against Spurs, as he produced some magnificent match-winning display, and not just De Gea but other United players too, Paul Pogba now playing like the Pogba United invested hugely in, Pogba’s delightful pass found pacey Marcus Rashford who controlled the ball into his stride and finished off clinically from a tight angle.
Roll back the time to just above 3 weeks ago Dec 19th, 2018 when Solskjaers appointment raised eye-brows with divided opinion on his managerial track records and status for United pedigree. Many United fans were disappointed not to see Frenchman and former Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane who is unattached, take over at Old Trafford, as his records and status better suits United. Ole Solskjaer started his coaching career with Manchester United U-23 squad in 2008, in his 3-year stint with the U-23, he managed a total of 25 matches, won 16, lost 4 and drew 5. He then moved on to seek greener pastures with a Norwegian club side, Molde FK (a club he once played for) in 2011, and guided them until 2013, during this time, Molde Fk won 68 matches, lost 31 and drew 24. He was soon on the move back to the UK, with Cardiff City where he managed them until he was relieved of the job in 2014 for poor performances, winning just 9 matches, lost 16 and drew 5 in a total of 30 matches. Solskjaer returned to Molde FK in 2015, and guided them in 118 matches, won 66, lost 33 and drew 19, He was still with Molde FK when United came calling.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as so far proven to be a worthy manager since joining United and there are calls to install him on a permanent basis, a valid or overzealous call? Nevertheless, Solskjaer has made history for Manchester United and deserve the accolades showering on him, however, calls to make him a permanent coach should be approached with caution as things can go bad as quickly as they start well. Let his end of the season assessment decide his fate.
Star Sixes is a new Competitive soccer tournament making the rounds of late. It is a 6-a-side indoor soccer game that brings together former legends of the game, ex-football association international players representing their nations. The 2019 regional tournament was hosted in Glasgow, Scotland, at the indoor arena of SSE Hydro, a 3-day event between the 4th and 6th of January.
Rep of Ireland was one of the participating nations for the regional contest and certain players led by Tim Dittmer put up some hilarious and less admirable performances. Tim Dittmer was the man in goal for the Rep of Ireland in their 1st match against Wales and he almost cost his team victory. It was an entertaining contest that ended in a 4-3 victory for the Rep of Ireland, but the talking point came when the scores were still locked at 2-2, Tim Dittmer’s teammate and ex Liverpool ace rolled back a simple back pass to Tim but Tim made a howler out of it, somehow allowing the ball to roll beneath his foot and into the goal for his team to go behind 2-3, but his blushes were saved with his team turning the result around to win 4-3.
The drama didn’t end there for Rep of Ireland as two of her other players were sent off for unsportsmanlike behavior in 2 separate matches. Firstly, it was Stephen Hunt who was involved in a scuffle with Scotland’s Barry Ferguson and then Jason McAteer who also squared off with England’s Michael Owen. Maybe my week’s moanday blog should have been dedicated to the Rep of Ireland team instead.
Star Sixes is an entertaining football tournament that also has other side attractions like ball juggling and cheerleading. The inaugural edition was the world’s tournament that took place on July 2017 in London’s O2 arena, England, and it involves 12 nations in Brazil, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal, Scotland and Spain and they were split into 3 groups of 4. The groups top 2 winners alongside 2 other best 3rd place team advanced to the knockout stage, eventually the final was between France and Denmark with France coming on top with a 2-1 victory with goals from Ludovic Giuly (3′) and Youri Djorkaeff (22′) for France and John Jensen (81′) for Denmark, for the 1st ever winner of the Star Sixes. The regional tournament was supposed to take place later same year but the plan was scrapped.
This year’s regional tournament was contested for by 6 teams, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Rep of Ireland and Wales plus an All-star rest of the world in a round-robin contest with the top 2 competing in the final. The 2 finalist was England and all-star rest of the world, and it was England that carried the day with Michael Owen starring with 2 goals, brings back the good old days. It was the All-star that took the lead through Danish Martin Jorgensen but were pegged back by England’s Michael Owen, All-star regained the lead through Spaniard Gaizka Mendieta but England leveled again through Joe Cole, then Michael Owen ensured the day belongs to England with the 3rd goal, England winning the regionals 3-2.
I guess the senior football citizens were tired of watching the game they once grazed from the sidelines and so they came together to create this tournament, less duration time of 30 minutes and slightly different rules to accommodate their ageing legs, but even though they still feel like they’ve got it in them, seems football had left some of them. Tim Dittmer, for example, is the head of goalkeeping at English FA, maybe he should stick with that role.
This kind of gaffe is so hilarious and makes one just smile asMallory Hopkins says;
Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.
For Tim Dittmer and co, you’ve already given your all to football, these errors and mistakes are inconsequential as far as your careers were concerned, a wise saying goes thus;
As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes. – Mel Brooks
Every day is for the thief, one day is for the owner.
Which simply interprets as; one can lie, cheat, steal and do whatever evil one could, one is sure going to meet downfall someday. This was the case of a robber who must have been robbing innocent and helpless people for a hobby but got caught up by karma when he tried to rob a Mixed Martial Art lady (MMA).
Meet Polyana Viana Mota aka Poly or The Iron Lady, an MMA fighter, standing at a formidable female height of 5’7” and a reach of 67.0′, the 27 years old Brazilian has a good MMA record of 10 wins and just 2 loses. She also adds fashion to her MMA finesse by endorsing and modeling products ranging from clothes to equipment on Instagram, with her Instagram account boasts of about 400000 followers.
It was on a quiet evening , Saturday the 5th, 2019, Polyana was outside her apartment in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil waiting for her Uber to arrive when the evil perpetrator approached her and asked for the time with an ulterior motive of stealing from her, a smart Poly had sensed something was not right about him quickly hid her phone and was alerted like the boy scouts motto says ‘Be Prepared’, soon after the would-be-robber demanded Poly hand over her phone, threatened her with a ‘gun’ which turned out to be a paper made gun. Ha Ha Ha! ‘taking a paper to a martial art fight huh’.
Give me the phone. Don’t try to react, because I am armed – the robber said
The Iron Lady reacted as a martial art expert would;
He was really close to me, so I thought, if it’s a gun, he won’t have time to draw it, so I stood up and I threw 2 punches and a kick – Polyana explained.
Poly further said she caught the robber in a martial art’s rear-naked choke move and succeeded in incapacitating the hoodlum till the police arrived to apprehend him. This was not the first time Polyana has been attacked by thugs, another incident was reported sometimes whilst she was away at her home town of Belem, Brazil, when 2 robbers on motorcycle tried to take her phone off her, but she punched one of them in the face to scare them off and away on their motorcycle. Justice set and served in both cases, isn’t it?
Bruce Lee will look down wherever he is and chuckled in agreement with Polyana, that’s my ‘gurl’ he would say.
Polyana is a trained and skilled MMA fighter and to some extent could be justified for resisting and fighting back robberies, but to some of us that can not even throw a punch let alone a martial art-like moves, I will advise not to resist a robbery, there could be a real gun/knife or other dangerous weapons and it could get really messy. It is better to live and fight another day so to say.
On a lighter note, I wish there are many more MMA fighters in the neighborhood to help fight off robbers or teach some lessons into the heads of these hoodlums or better still, more people learn MMA. It was speculated that;
Robber Union in Rio de Janeiro is asking that the UFC should please give a fight to Polyana soon! They are worried about their safety while she is [loose] out there and with nothing to do!
For me, my little brother knows a thing or 2 about martial art, it is time I eat a humble pie and meet him for some tutorials.
The English FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world, and it has produced some jaw-dropping upsets wrapped in thrills and dramas over the years, 2018/19 FA Cup season is living up to that billings with the 3rd round knocked out of some premier league clubs by their lower league counterpart. Some dogged performances from league 1 & league 2 clubs like Newport, Gillingham, and co seen them knocked out English Premier League Clubs like Leicester City, Fulham among others.
It all started on Saturday afternoon(5th Jan) when Gillingham hosted Cardiff City. Cardiff sits on 17th position on the premier league log table yet were favored and widely expected to get a win over their league 1 counterpart Gillingham, who are also struggling in their own league, and sits on 19th position on the League 1 log table. The match started and there was nothing to separate them, it seemed like it was going to end in a barren draw, but was turned on its head in the 81th minutes, when Gillingham striker Elliot List scored the decisive goal, Cardiff who had earlier struck the post twice probed and prowled for the equalizer to no avail.
Playing in the 3rd tier of the English football league, championship side Bristol City look like a match to their opponent from the premier league Huddersfield Town. Huddersfield Town got promoted into the premier league at the beginning of the season, seems like a mountain too high for them as they sit at the bottom of the premier league log table, they also seem like a sure candidate for relegation come the end of the season. With this in Bristol Citys mind, they showed Huddersfield no respect and scored their goal, the only goal of the match on 72nd minutes when Josh Brownhill made the difference. Huddersfield latest defeat made it 7 straight loses for the lack-luster Terrier as Huddersfield are popularly called.
The drama continued into the next day when Fulham hosted league 2 side, Oldham Athletic on Sunday afternoon. Fulham is another struggling team just above Huddersfield on the premier league log table with just 14th points, however, they were still fancied to overcome a league 2 side, Oldham. It was not to be as the unfazed league 2 side had other ideas, though went behind to a Fulham’s Denis Odoi’s second-half goal (52nd min), but fought back to silenced the Fulham’s home crowd with a Sam Surridge 76th minutes equalizing spot-kick, then a Callum Lang 89th minutes header to sealed the victory for Oldham. Fulham’s misery in front of goal was highlighted when Aleksandra Mitrovic was brought on to play a spot-kick only to saw it saved by Oldham goalkeeper Daniel Iversen.
The biggest shock of the 3rd round was the defeat of high flying premier league Leicester (not in the group of stragglers of course) from the hand of lowly Newport, a team playing in league 2. Newports league form is appalling with just 1 point out of possible 12 in its last 4 matches, nobody would have seen this coming, a 2-1 win over a more glamorous Leicester City would be the highlight of this 3rd round. It was Newport that started like a house on fire with a headed goal from Jamile Matt in the 10th minute, Leicester thought they have salvaged a replay on the 82nd minutes when Rachid Ghezzal fired home, but their joy was short lived when Marc Albrighton handled in the area and the spot-kick call was made, Padraig Amond kept his cool to convert the spot-kick (85 min) which sent the Newport fans into a wild jubilation.
Other premier league stragglers that were fortunate to try again from a replay are Newcastle and Southampton.
Newcastle was given a scare when they went behind to a championship side Blackburn Rovers’ Bradley Dack‘s 56th-minute header but were giving a lifeline to come back into the game from a spot-kick, safely dispatched by Matt Ritchie in 84th minutes. They would have to try again at Blackburn Rover’s turf to earn their place in the 4th round.
Southampton also got a narrow escape from elimination in the 3rd round, when they saw their 2 goals advantage been canceled out by a determined championship Derby County. Drawing inspiration from the home crowd, Derby County fought back from 2 goals down, with goals from Jack Marriott (58th min) and Tom Laurence (61st min) canceling out the Saints Nathan Redmond‘s 4th and 48th minutes goals. The Saint could have left empty handed had Jack Marriott scored a last-minute opportunity that came begging but ballooned agonizingly wide instead. Sotton will host Derby in a replay.
The classic FA Cup dramas definitely won’t end here at the 3rd round, has tantalizing 4th round fixtures will soon be unveiled.
ps: all images are getty images
Thank you all for your support.
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