●Says current F’Eagles may struggle in Poland
Coach Tunde Disu (OFR) is the hero of one of the most memorable moments in Nigerian football when he inspired his national U-20 side to come from a 4-0 down to win on penalties in the quarterfinal of the World Youth Championship held in Saudi Arabia in 1989. That historic event is today known as ‘Damman Miracle’. In this interview with AJIBADE OLUSESAN, the former Technical Director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), said the current Flying Eagles team did not have enough time to blend before heading for the World Cup that will start next week in Poland.
Super Eagles Manager Gernot Rohr announced a provisional list of 25 players for the 2019 African Cup Nations which has attracted mixed reactions with some pundits saying the coach should not have included a player like Kelechi Iheanacho.Do you think the Leicester City forward does not merit a place in the team for AFCON?
I think the team needs him because he’s a natural left-footer; he is a young player who has racked up experience, he’s scored many goals for the team. I like what the coach has done with him, he’s just like Obafemi Martins, Emmanuel Amuneke who are natural left footers. For this young man, he uses both legs, he’s good in set pieces too, he’s going to be a good addition to the team.
It is believed that Iheanacho is suffering from confidence crisis. Do you think we need players who are mentality ready for the Nations Cup?
There is no player in the English Premier League that cannot fit in for his national team even though he is not playing regularly. I heard John Fashanu speak about this and he shares my views because the league is of high level. Even when you are not starting games, they will still bring you in some games for strategic reason, the standard of that league is high and you can survive in your national team with that. We are talking about somebody who has played in Manchester City from where he was called to the national team and now in Leicester City.He may be struggling now but he’s also developing. I think the coach has a vision, a lot of coaches don’t have that, when I discovered Mutiu Adepoju, he wasn’t a ‘Headmaster’ people call him now, we knew what he could do and gave him the platform to grow. We know how to spot these talents, support them like I did with Amuneke, Samson Siasia and the rest. You need players who are intelligent, and I think Iheanacho is one; he is a little bit more experienced than those youngsters that we have. If we are talking about the attack in the Eagles, then you mention Odion Ighalo but Iheanacho provides something different because he is a natural left-footer and unlike many players he doesn’t have injuries. The only difference between Iheanacho and Martins is pace but Kelechi is very skilful and young, he is a player that can play top nine or go either of the flanks.
There is still the question about the recall of captain Mikel Obi; here is a player who hasn’t featured for the team in 11 months and did not even play in the qualifiers….
He’s the captain and Ahmed Musa was deputising for him; Mikel is a player who has that pedigree and it is good to have him back, he is doing well now even though not in the Premier League, the level of the Championship is also high, he is the kind of player you need all the time unless he has an injury. They asked one of these Super Eagles players about Mikel and he said he was like Lionel Messi to them, he’s very intelligent, despite all he has achieved, he still want to play. These younger ones may want to play too but you have to have a good mix of experience and youthfulness to be able to achieve something. The coach has to work more with Mikel, Ighalo, Musa and those older players, they will guide the younger ones with their experience, and it is going to help the team in this competition a lot.
Rohr seem to have a fairly balanced team but the goalkeeping department still remains shaky. First choice Francis Uzoho is not seeing games in Cyprus while many Nigerians have little confidence in Daniel Akpeyi and even Ikechukwu Ezenwa. Don’t you think we need to be worried?
We need to be worried but we have these three goalkeepers now and there is nothing we can do to find other ones before the tournament. Like you said, almost all of them have one issue or the other but the big job is to determine who is going to be the number one among them, it is important. We have a good goalkeeper’s trainer; he is going to work with the Technical Adviser to determine who is going to be the number one. However, this is a lesson for us; we have to start going round to look for players, not only in Europe, we have to look inwards. Goalkeepers are important, you should have the qualities, the height, distribution of balls, presence, awareness, counter-attack and the rest. You look at Peter Rufai, he had that.
The last time the Eagles played in AFCON, they won despite the fact that no one expected them to triumph in South Africa in 2013, how far do you think they can go this time around?
If you look at the rankings, teams like Egypt and Senegal are rated above Nigeria but in a competition like this, Nigeria is always the team to beat. If you look at the other teams, they have quality players, like two or three who can make the difference; we may not have that but notwithstanding, Nigeria can get to the final.
You burst into limelight with your exploit in the national U-20 team in Saudi 1989 World Youth championship when you led Nigeria to the final of the competition, the country will begin another campaign in the tournament next week what is your impression of this team?
The Flying Eagles of today have not seen good coaching; I mean they have not had the opportunity to play together for a long period of time. I think we have some foreign-based players in the team now, they have a mixture of former U-17 players, I think they have to get out of the group first, they can get to the quarterfinal. When you get to that stage, you need players who are a little bit experienced, who are physically and technically strong, it is going to show when you start playing countries like Argentina, Brazil but I don’t think these guys are matured enough. You have to show me what you do when you have the ball and when you don’t have it, the stakes are high at this level, Messi, Neymar all played in the competition. Look at what Nwankwo Kanu was doing at that level, we have not had a player like that for a long time now, you see Wilson Oruma, they were good; I think the current guys are not bad but I don’t think they have had enough time to be together.
When you were preparing for Saudi 1989 competition, you relied more on local players, don’t you think we have problem with our scouting system now?
I think the first problem is lack of continuity; when I took over, the first thing I did was to invite all the 18 players that played in the previous U-17 World Cup, that was where I got Angus Ikeji, Bawa Abdullahi and the likes, and then I started going round the country to play friendly matches so as to get more players. I went to all the states to pick them, my assistants that time was the late Kelechi Emeteole, a very good coach, we concentrated on all aspects of the game, and we showed them how the game should be played. Look at Manchester City, they have a philosophy, everyone plays within that philosophy, it is important and then you also need left-footers, they are special players…..
One left-footer who could have joined the team was Samuel Chuwkwueze but he opted to play for the Super Eagles in AFCON despite being eligible for U-20 World Cup, do you think the Villarreal forward should have helped the Flying Eagles?
If he’s still eligible to play he should have gone there. For instance, in the U-23 team, Victor Osimhen who is a product of our Junior League, was a reserve player for the Super Eagles and when they had problem in the Olympics team, the U-23 coach called for help and he went there with some other players and they won. I understand that as a player who has played for the main team, you can see it as a demotion to go to a junior team but it depend on how the coach is able to get that player’s understanding.
For this team, I think they also need a psychologist, it is very important, during my time, I had professor Omotayo; I remember there was a match, we were trailing 2-0 and I needed Emeka Amadi to replace Ikeji who conceded goals I considered too cheap but Amadi was like scared and then I called Omotayo to speak with him and Amadi got there and won the game for us. They need a psychologist, a good physical trainer too; the technical man can’t do everything.
You masterminded one of the most memorable moments in Nigerian football when you inspired your side from 4-0 down against the USSR to win in the quarterfinal of Saudi Arabia 1989 tournament. Sincerely speaking, did you think your side could have come back in the game?
At 4-0, I realized that there was a poor link between my right full back and the number 6; I had to change the centre defence. Then I had Chinedu Odiari who had done well before but for the match he was complaining about headache and I told the doctor to look at him. But when it was 4-0 I look at him on the bench but this time he was eager to play and I went to him that he had to go in there I block the goals, we can’t afford to allow more goals to get in, that if we don’t concede again we would go back to Nigeria and apologize. He got in and we blocked those goals, and the USSR also made a mistake, they removed their top scorer Oleg Salenko, I looked at their coach and said ‘but the game has not ended, you removed this guy? I also noticed that they were just passing the ball around; they didn’t want to score again.
We scored the first goal through Chris Ohenhen, a fantastic free kick and then again we won another free kick in a good area, Ohenhen hit another shot for the second goal. At 4-2, I told everyone to attack, I gave them the instruction to throw long balls and that was why Sam Elijah who was neither a midfielder nor striker got that third goal, and then Ugbade scored the fourth goal, then we won during the penalty shootout, it was miraculous
Having done that magic, Nigerians were expecting that we will go all the way but Portugal defeated us 2-0 in the final and it was a huge disappointment what happened?
That 2-0 defeat was noble for us because most of the players were playing with injury in the final it was so bad to the extent that only one player was on the reserve to play. The most affected player was Ugbade because he had a bad ankle after scoring that goal against Russia.
Portugal have played us before in the group stage; they know our team just like we know them but they are lucky going by the situation we found ourselves regarding injury.
We are happy in the end because we have made our mark. We are the first African team to reach the final
I remember late MKO Abiola, he was sent to us, he came to pick us. He came with late Gen. Sani Abacha and they came with empty plane hoping that we are going to carry the cup.
I remember Abiola promising me a brand new car if we win the cup. So when we were on the plane and we were gisting, he said he would still buy me a car but it would be Tokunbo (fairly used). I was confused because I didn’t know what was called Tokunbo then.
The man said something that I could never believe; he said he had over 250 businesses and anywhere he went to, his money was ready. He had bakery, he had bookshop, he had so many small businesses but they were fetching him huge money he said he was doing it so that himself and his family would not suffer in the future. His many businesses are still helping his family today.
Afrobasket final: D’Tigress face off against host Senegal
Nigeria’s female basketball team, D’Tigress will be hoping to make it back-to-back victories when they face hosts, Senegal in the final of the ongoing FIBA Women’s AfroBasket in Dakar, Senegal.
Nigeria won the title in Mali two years ago defeating Senegal in the semi-finals but will have to be at their best when they face the hosts on Sunday. D’Tigress’ maintained their unbeaten run in the championship when they defeated Mali 79-58 in the semi-finals while Senegal had to overturned an 18 point deficit to overcome a strong Mozambique charge 60-57 in their semi-final game.
Nigeria, who has looked flawless throughout the tournament, will be playing in their fifth FIBA Women’s AfroBasket Final and hoping to win a fourth African title on Sunday.
Against Mali, Ezinne Kalu, for the second day in a row, top scored for her side as she amassed 19 points, made five assists and two rebounds to star for Nigeria while playing solid defence on Malian super star, Touty Gandega and limiting her to just one assist and a rebound. To get to the final, Nigeria had defeated Tunisia, Cameroon in the group stages while also securing wins against Republic of Congo before beating Mali.
All the semi-finalists, including Senegal, Nigeria, Mozambique and Mali as well as the winner between Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo in the Classification games to determine positions 5-8, have automatically made it to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics prequalification tournament to be played from November 14 to 17.
Lampard seeks EPL redemption with Foxes’ scalp
It has been a tough start to Frank Lampard’s reign as Chelsea both with two defeats on the trot, but the former England international will be hoping to make amends at Leicester, reports TUNDE SULAIMAN
He may once have been one of the best midfielders ever to wear the famous blues jerseys of the Stamford Bridge outfit, which clearly must have played a big part in Roman Abravomic’s decision to appoint him Chelsea manager over the summer.
It was a massive gamble from the Russian billionaire who is not noted for his patience with his managers (since taking over the Stamford Bridge outfit in 2003 he has hired and fired seven managers), especially since the 41-year-old Lampard had just completed his debut season in charge of a club.
But even though the highest scoring midfielder in Premier League history with 193 goals did a decent job in the Championship with Derby County including taking them to the play-offs where they narrowly lost 2-1 to Aston Villa in the final, and also lifting the scalp of Manchester United in the English League Cup, the native of London was taught a brutal lesson last Sunday in his first ever game in the ‘big league’.
For anyone who did not watch the match the 4-0 result paints a humiliating Premier League debut for Lampard. But the final outcome actually masks what really transpired at the Theatre of Dreams last Sunday as the stats reveal.
Although the Red Devils were playing in front of a jam-packed Old Trafford faithful, the Premier League’s biggest stadium was mainly muted, especially in the first half, with the impressive performance from the visiting side.
Twice Chelsea struck the woodwork through Tammy Abraham and Emerson, but in the end still suffered their worst ever opening-day defeat in 104 league seasons and allowed Manchester United’s biggest home win over the Blues since 1965.
Marcus Rashford scored twice, either side of a close-range effort from Anthony Martial, who had been given the number nine shirt back following the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan.
Substitute Daniel James completed the scoring with a goal on his debut nine minutes from time.
But in truth the final score line was harsh on the visitors, who were the better side before the break although the ecstatic home supporters did not care about that though, as the negativity of a difficult summer was swept away by their best result against Chelsea since they beat them by the same score in the 1994 FA Cup final.
Lampard reportedly went for an early morning run around Old Trafford to prepare for his Premier League debut as Chelsea manager.
The Blues’ record goal-scorer has made some bold decisions already, despite being barely a month into his new job.
He has picked seven home-grown players in his senior squad: the four in action against United – Abraham, Mason Mount, Andreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori – the currently injured duo of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, and promising defender Reece James.
Despite the loss, however, Lampard’s side still ended up having more poss e s sion, 54 to United’s 46 and more shots 18 (with seven on target) to the home side’s 11 (with only five on target)!
However, aware of what such a result may have on his players, speaking after the debacle not to “be too deflated”.
Speaking with Sky Sports he added: “We have to be grown up about it because it doesn’t feel nice. We’re Chelsea we don’t want to come here and lose 4-0, we don’t want to come anywhere and lose 4-0.
“But we know – and anyone playing the game knows – we put in a performance that for big parts wasn’t a 4-0, but we have to accept that and realise it’s probably three points and we have too many things coming.”
Sadly even though the Blues put a much better performance and even found the back of the net twice against Liverpool in Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup in Turkey they still ended losing, albeit on penalties 5-4.
For long periods, the Europa Cup holders matched the Champions League winners grit-for-grit but were again potent enough in front of goal, which might be a worry for Lampard.
But the return of midfielder, N’Golo Kante, who ended up being voted Man-of-the-Match, was a major boost and should bode well for the Blues against the Foxes today.
On the balance of play, it is clear that if Lampard is able to get the balance of youth and experience right in his first XI, Chelsea could be an exciting team to watch this season.
Lampard’s opposite number Brendan Rodgers will be bringing his Leicester City to Stamford Bridge hoping for a massive improvement on their drab home match against Wolves last weekend.
The former Liverpool boss was unable to inspire the home fans who had to sit through 83 minutes before they saw the Foxes’ solitary goal-bound chance against the visiting side.
In the game, Leicester substitute Harvey Barnes had a curling effort well held by Rui Patricio, and Wolves’ best legal effort fell to Raul Jimenez, but he shot straight at Schmeichel.
Ironically the main talking point from that game was the video assistant referee decision which chalked off a “goal” scored by Wolves prompting a predictable difference in opinions from the managers.
While Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo said VAR decisions are affecting “the spirit of the game”; adding: “It’s what fans come for, to celebrate a goal, not to celebrate a no goal – that’s not the real celebration of football.
“It’s not good for the atmosphere of football. The Leicester fans were celebrating the no goal. That’s not the mind-set of the game. Six months ago it would’ve been a goal, so that is an issue for VAR.
“We have such a nice Premier League, such a product, we cannot lose that. Two minutes the game stopped. The anxiety of us celebrating, then we waited – it’s not the spirit of the game.”
But Rodgers joked he “was a massive fan of VAR, especially today”, but also added: “I’ve said all along that it will work really well in the game and that some will go for you, like it did today, and some will go against you, like it has done for Nuno today.
“It has to always be consistent and if there’s a handball and that leads to a goal, it gets ruled out.
“The officials are trying to work it the best they can. It’s not perfect yet but as long as you get to the right decision, that’s what we want.”
Rogers, whose last port of call was Celtic, was also full of praise for Caglar Soyuncu, who came in for Harry Maguire after the England international’s £80million move to Manchester United a fortnight ago.
“Caglar was excellent,” said the Foxes boss. “He got a round of applause at the end from his team-mates and it’s not easy to come in for a special player like Harry, but Caglar was strong and comfortable on the ball.”
The 23-year-old Turkish international who joined the Foxes last August on a five-year deal, will again have to be at his best to ward off an expected all-fired up Blues, who will be desperate to atone for their Old Trafford humiliation before their home fans, who will not be happy looking at the league table and seeing their team second from bottom.
Incidentally, Chelsea fans will be viewing this game with some form of trepidation acutely aware that the last time the Foxes came to town on December 9, 2018 they left with all three points after a shock 1-0 win courtesy of a predatory Jamie Vardy strike prompting then manager, manager Maurizio Sarri to say his players reacted with “mental confusion” after failing to salvage something from the game.
Vardy scored in the 51st minute which meant that the Blues had more than ample time to have avoided a first home loss of the campaign.
But the Italian has left with his “Sarri ball” and the onus is now on the former England international to ensure that lightening does not strike twice.
And in the early kick off, newly promoted Sheffield United is home to Crystal Palace buoyed by their impressive 1-1 draw away at Bournemouth in the Blades’ first top-flight match since 2007.
United’s goal hero, Billy Sharp, who had only been on the pitch for six minutes when he bundled the ball home from close range said afterwards “he had dreamed of” scoring in the Premier League.
Sharp, 33, who had only played in two Premier League matches before – both at the start of the 2012-13 season while at Southampton – and began on the bench, despite being the Blades’ top goal scorer with 24 goals in all competitions in 2018-19, will be hoping to find the net again today against a Palace side, which fired blanks last week in their home game a g a i n s t Everton.
S h e f f i e l d Unite d h a d n o t played in the Premier League since being relegated on the final day of the 2006-07 season and had even had a six-year spell in League One, before they finished second in the Championship last season to regain their place among English football’s elite.
Manager Chris Wilder was delighted with the performance from his side as they did not look overawed at the top level and should be confident of being able to pick up his first three points.
The 51-year-old former defender knows the importance of having a decent home record if he is to ensure the Blades do not go straight back down again and should fancy his chances against Roy Hodgson’s side.
Backed by a capacity 32, 000 fans at Bramall Lane Blades fans will be hoping that the 47.5 million euros outlay on 13 new players including the £10million they paid Bournemouth for their France Under-21 international striker Lys Mousse, will pay off with a prolonged stay in the top flight.
Mousset joined Bournemouth from Le Havre in 2016 for a reported £5.7m but was mainly restricted to the role of substitute. The 23-year-old, who scored five goals in 71 appearances for the Cherries, was the Blades’ fifth signing since winning automatic promotion to the Premier League last season.
On his part, Hodgson, who spent the whole summer battling to keep hold of his best player, Wilfried Zaha, will be banking on the Cote d’Ivoire international being able to put his failed transfer saga behind him and once again deliver for the Eagles.
According to reports, 26-year-old forward, who submitted a transfer request on deadline day to force through a move and was a target for both Arsenal and Everton, was summoned to a players’ meeting called by his teammate, France international defender Mamadou Sakho two Friday’s ago where he pledged his 100 per cent commitment until the transfer window reopens in January.
The one-time Manchester United player, who came on for the final 25 minutes on the opening weekend to a warm reception, will be expected to feature longer today.
Match Day Two action concludes tomorrow with Manchester United travelling to the Molineux Stadium to confront Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers hoping to finally end their losing streak against the Portuguese sweat merchant.
Last season United failed to get the better of the then newly promoted side in the three times they met drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford and then losing the return leg 2-1, which came only two weeks after suffering a humiliating 2-0 FA Cup defeat.
Tomorrow’s tie will be a real test of how far the Red Devils have come under the tutelage of their former player and also put into proper prospective last Sunday’s emphatic 4-0 win over Chelsea.
For lovers of the English game the next two days should serve up another treat.
Bribery charges: We notified Siasia, says FIFA
- Lawyers are studying the case – coach’s associate
World Football governing body, FIFA, has come out with two separate documents to show the world that they actually informed former Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, of the bribery investigation against him.
FIFA on Friday placed a life ban on the former international from all football related activities for breaching Article 11 (Bribery) of the 2009 edition of the FIFA Code of Ethics. But reacting to the ban, the former youth international, said he was not aware of any investigation process against him, something FIFA came out to address.
The first document, sent to Siasia’s email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, by Investigatory Chamber, FIFA Ethics Committee, and signed by Ms Maria Claudia Rojas, Chairperson of the Committee, dated February 13, 2019, with the title ‘Request for Position’, read: “In the framework of the above-mentioned investigation, I would like to hereby request for your collaboration on the gathering of further information concerning the matter at hand. In this respect, we hereby send you the preliminary investigation report (attached).
“In order to properly establish the relevant facts, you are requested to provide your position as to the charges mentioned against you in the said preliminary investigation report.”
The second document, signed by the same person, was sent to the same email address on March 7, 2019 and it was about ‘Notification of closure of investigation proceedings’, where it was said that Siasia would be notified of the outcome of the investigation.
Meanwhile, an associate of the USA’94 striker, Opukiri Jones-Ere has said the case has been referred to Siasia’s lawyers. Opukiri said the lawyers will come out on their reactions after studying the matter adding that he will brief the press during the week.
“The matter is a legal issue and the lawyers have advised him not to make any statement until they have studied the case. He in view of the fact that he is still going through the experience of his kidnapped mother he is unavailable to pass any comment now. “It will take the lawyers two days to study the allegations and today being weekend we cannot make any statement until next week,” he said.
AG 2019: Falconets beats South Africa in opening match
Two-time FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup vice champions, the Falconets of Nigeria kick off their All-African Games campaign in style with a resounding 3-0 win over South Africa at the Stade Académie Mohammed VI in Morocco on Saturday.
The Christopher Danjuma managed team secured victory thanks to goals from Monday Gift, Zainab Olopade and Cynthia Aku. Hosts Morocco also started the group stage in impressive fashion with a 3-2 win over North African counterparts Algeria
The 2019 African Games women’s football tournament will be the 5th edition of the African Games women’s football tournament. Under-20 national teams are allowed to take part in the tournament, with Nigeria drawn in Group B of the competition, to contend with Cameroon, South Africa and Zambia.
Seven Olympic winners stripped of gold medals
A further seven Russian weightlifters, including two who were stripped of Olympic medals for doping, have been provisionally suspended based on evidence in the McLaren Report and data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory.
The announcement from the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) brings the number of weightlifters from the country to have been charged during the week after the governing body received evidentiary packages from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to 12.
Among the latest to be sanctioned by the IWF are Dmitry Lapikov, who claimed the bronze medal in the under-105 kilograms category at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing before he was retrospectively disqualified by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Lapikov had earlier been stripped of the 105kg title he won at the 2011 European Championships for doping.
EPL: VAR denies City late victory; wins for Liverpool, Arsenal
Gabriel Jesus had an injurytime goal ruled out by VAR as Manchester City dropped points at home for the first time since December 2018 with a 2-2 draw against Tottenham. Raheem Sterling headed City ahead in the first half, but Erik Lamela swiftly equalised from distance. Sergio Aguero flicked home before Lucas Moura nodded in soon after coming on. Jesus then swept home in injury time, but it was ruled out for a handball by Aymeric Laporte.
It was a frustrating result for Manchester City in their first home game of the season, particularly after beginning their title defence with a 5-0 win at West Ham last weekend. Earlier, Liverpool beat Southampton to secure an 11th successive top-flight victory and equal their best-ever Premier League winning run – despite a late blunder by goalkeeper Adrian.
With the European champions leading 2-0, Liverpool’s number two keeper – starting in place of the injured Alisson – cleared the ball against the shin of substitute Danny Ings to gift the Saints striker a goal against his former club.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead at the end of the first-half with a delicious arrowed finish from the edge of the penalty area after Saints had gone close on three occasions. Adrian, who was passed fit despite an ankle injury in a collision with a pitch invader following the UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea, had kept out Maya Yoshida’s header while Che Adams spurned two chances to equalise, reports the BBC.
And Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the winner as Arsenal defeated Burnley to record successive victories at the start of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2009. French striker Alexandre Lacazette marked his return from injury as he impressively held off Erik Pieters and shot between the legs of goalkeeper Nick Pope to put the Gunners ahead after 13 minutes
EPL: VAR denies City late victory; wins for Liverpool, Arsenal
Gabriel Jesus had an injury-time goal ruled out by VAR as Manchester City dropped points at home for the first time since December 2018 with a 2-2 draw against Tottenham.
Raheem Sterling headed City ahead in the first half, but Erik Lamela swiftly equalised from distance.
Sergio Aguero flicked home before Lucas Moura nodded in soon after coming on.
Jesus then swept home in injury time, but it was ruled out for a handball by Aymeric Laporte.
It was a frustrating result for Manchester City in their first home game of the season, particularly after beginning their title defence with a 5-0 win at West Ham last weekend.
Earlier, Liverpool beat Southampton to secure an 11th successive top-flight victory and equal their best-ever Premier League winning run – despite a late blunder by goalkeeper Adrian.
With the European champions leading 2-0, Liverpool’s number two keeper – starting in place of the injured Alisson – cleared the ball against the shin of substitute Danny Ings to gift the Saints striker a goal against his former club.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead at the end of the first-half with a delicious arrowed finish from the edge of the penalty area after Saints had gone close on three occasions.
Adrian, who was passed fit despite an ankle injury in a collision with a pitch invader following the UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea, had kept out Maya Yoshida’s header while Che Adams spurned two chances to equalise, reports the BBC.
And Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the winner as Arsenal defeated Burnley to record successive victories at the start of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2009.
French striker Alexandre Lacazette marked his return from injury as he impressively held off Erik Pieters and shot between the legs of goalkeeper Nick Pope to put the Gunners ahead after 13 minutes.
Ashley Barnes levelled the match two minutes before half-time, converting at close range from Dwight McNeil’s deflected pass for his third goal in two matches.
The hosts, who handed full debuts to £8m defender David Luiz and Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos, saw an immediate response ruled out for offside after Reiss Nelson appeared to have completed a slick passing move with a confident finish into the roof of the net.
Arsenal 2 – 1 Burnley
Aston Villa 1- 2 Bournemouth
Brighton 1-1 West Ham
Everton 1-0 Watford
Norwich 3-1 Newcastle
Southampton 1-2 Liverpool
Man City 2 -2 Tottenham
Knee injury puts Osaka’s US Open title defence in doubt
World number one Naomi Osaka will “probably” defend her U.S. Open title, even if it means defying her doctor’s orders, she said after retiring from the Cincinnati Masters with a knee injury on Friday.
Osaka was trailing American Sofia Kenin in the third set of their quarter-final in Cincinnati when she sought treatment on her heavily-strapped left knee.
After briefly returning to play, the Japanese star retired with Kenin leading 6-4 1-6 2-0.
Osaka’s withdrawal comes after Serena Williams, the woman she beat in a tumultuous final at Flushing Meadows last year, pulled out of Cincinnati with back problems.
The injury has also loosened Osaka’s grip on the top ranking, with world number two Ash Barty poised to reclaim it if the Australian makes the final.
“I really don’t know what’s going on with my leg right now,” Osaka told reporters.
“It sucks, especially since I didn’t want to get injured this close to the Open, and now I’m kind of worried a little bit.
“The thing is, my pain tolerance is really high, so that’s usually why I play through things that apparently I shouldn’t.”
Osaka said she “felt it wasn’t safe” to continue against Kenin ahead of the U.S. Open starting Monday week.
“I feel like this might have that one percent chance of me not being able to play, and that’s what’s concerning me.
“In the end, I’m going to play even if the doctor says no, probably.”
Osaka’s retirement sent Kenin through to face fellow American Madison Keys in Saturday’s semi-final.
Keys faced only two break points in beating Venus Williams 6-2 6-3 in the evening encounter.
Barty will face Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova in the other semi-final after rallying to a 5-7 6-2 6-0 victory over Greek Maria Sakkari.
The Australian had surged to a 4-1 lead in the first set before she stumbled with unforced errors, with Sakkari lifting to take control through a slew of backhand winners, reports Reuters.
Barty cleaned up her game in the second set, however, recovering the backhand slice that had deserted her in the opener.
“It was important for me at the start of the second set to go back to basics and what worked before,” the 23-year-old Barty said.
“I had to serve well, and not give her too many looks at second serves. I tried to bring in my slice to change the tempo of the match.”
Kuznetsova outlasted Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova 3-6 7-6(2) 6-3, having been a set down with her opponent serving for the match.
I’ll never be a politician like Weah –AMOKACHI
Ex-international Daniel Amokachi, in this interview with CHARLES OGUNDIYA, faults the Nigeria Football Federation for giving the Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, a semi-final target at the last Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. Excerpts…
What is your take on Alex Iwobi signing for Everton, a club you played for during your active days…
This is a young man that has a lot of talents. Arsenal was a good club, but Everton did a lot of crazy signings this season, same thing they did about three seasons ago and it never paid off. Sometimes it is not smart to keep on signing and signing; they signed about six players this season.
Super Eagles star Samuel Chukwueze has signed with Jay Z’s sports management label Roc Nations Sports.
What do you think other young players can do to command such market value?
It is about what you are, Chukwueze is a young player who has shown a lot of potential.
If you watched him from his first game in Spain, then you would know that this young player has something we have not seen in Nigeria players in recent years. And I think business is business. Jay Z is someone who has eyes for business and that shows a lot about that young man.
He should just keep doing what he knows how to do best and allow other younger ones coming behind to know there are lot of things to gain. But it is a shame that we keep acting as if sport is not a business in Nigeria.
In your generation you played with passion and even when you lost people would applaud the performance unlike nowadays that even in victory, people still complain. Why is this?
It is the generation, you and I can’t help out to solve the situation. It is not just about Nigeria, it is global. They just need to keep doing the best they can do, and keep collecting the huge money that we are seeing now in football, and we that watch them should keep enjoying what they are playing.
You started your career from the local league and rose through the ranks before traveling abroad, but now it is difficult to have our local league players playing in the national team, how do we go back to the old days?
It has to do with the administrators because they are the ones that give the coaches coming to the country instructions on what to do, and conditions to work with. I was blessed to work with the late Amodu Shuaibu, Austin Eguavoen and late Stephen Keshi, and I know their enthusiasm when it comes to the home-based players because they all came through the ranks.
That’s the difference between them and those coming from outside. Most people coming from outside are not Nigerians, they are not passionate about the players playing at home, they are just here to do their job and get paid, not like our own who are passionate on developing the players back home.
They know the talents that Nigerians possess especially if you go deep, we have the quality that can help. In 2013, we practically won the AFCON with home-based players; they qualified us for the championship and won it for us. Four or five players from the Nigerian league were starting games and that says a lot about the coach.
But everyone knows how these foreign coaches go about their job and you can’t blame them. We just keep hoping that the coaches will consider the players especially the young ones that are coming from the home front, and let them get a chance in the team.
But Westerhof was a foreign coach when he was in charge of the Super Eagles and he was able to discover home-based players like you…
That’s why I said it has to do with the mind-set of the person coming; Westerhof knew what he was doing. Before coming to Nigeria, he had already done some research about the country. He knew the quality of the players back at home and that’s what still happens till today.
There is no coach that will come to Nigeria without knowing full well that he will get to the semi-final or final, that’s the minimum as long as you know the right thing to do. If you want to prepare Egusi (melon) soup, and you get the right ingredients, you will get a good soup, same as leading the Super Eagles.
Would you say you are impressed with the quality of performance of the Super Eagles at the 2019 AFCON?
The quality of players is there, we got the third place because of the character and determination of Nigerians not because of the quality of football that we played, and that’s just the truth of it. I don’t know how true it is, but the coach said that he was given a semi-final target, for me as an ex-international and a Nigerian, that’s a big joke.
For a country that already won the title three times, played in the final several times and also won the bronze for many times, I think it’s a joke that we are giving a coach a semi-final target, it shouldn’t be, but that’s the situation in which we found ourselves. We just have to keep hoping and praying to get the best; that’s what we are known for in Nigeria.
What’s your impression about Gernot Rohr as a coach of the Super Eagles?
I don’t have any say about the coach, I only talk about the quality of football which tells a lot.
What will you say about Nigerian players playing in the English Premier League that started a week ago?
The EPL is the most watched league in the world, at the same time the bookies are still giving it to Manchester City, Liverpool. There is no difference in the two teams, as everything is still going for them. We just talked about Everton with all their crazy signings, Tottenham Hotspur is a team that you can always put your money on and think okay, as long as they don’t have a rough patch along the line.
But surprise wise, I don’t think we are going to have any surprises, because the two the teams (Manchester City and Liverpool) will continue battling with it. For now they are the best in the EPL, manager wise, quality and the formation they play, they are the best all round.
How far have you gone with your NGO?
My NGO is called Daniel Amokachi Foundation, it’s been around for like forever. It is not something new but I decided to keep it quiet. I joined the government and did a lot in the last year. I have been working with my partners in Turkey and we have been doing a lot of free medicals.
Not just that, we treat and give drugs and there is educational aspect of it; we have visited a lot of schools, donated stationery and helped out in giving scholarship to the young ones that cannot afford to pay their fees, something I do from my own pocket. It is something that we will continue to do because Nigeria is a country where we all need a helping hand.
It’s unfortunate that we cannot get all the things done at a go. We should just continue to do what we have to do to make as many people as possible happy.
I am so glad to see some of our young players like Ahmed Musa doing a lot of things for the society, Shehu Abdullahi and Oghenekaro Etebo, those are the young ones doing a lot of good things.
I just hope the younger ones are seeing this and also make more foundations to help Nigerians out. I want to tell those guys to continue doing what they are doing and also we need others to join them.
You decided to keep your foundation quiet, why? I decided to do that because what you do is between you and God and I have to give account to God too. I grew up in a home where things were done quietly. My dad had been doing same thing and we learned from him while growing up.
We are just seven in my family but my father has raised over 30 people up to the university level. I thank God for giving me the grace to be able to do it. I have been doing it since 1993 and I will continue to do it. I have seen life and luxury is nothing to me now.
If I have N10, I am happy to put N6 or N7 into helping people.
I am grateful to God for helping me and I pray that He keeps nourishing me so I can do more. Your mates and colleagues from different parts of the world are already going into politics. George Weah is now the President of Liberia, Didier Drogba recently announced his plans to go into politics.
Are we going to see Amokachi going into politics in the nearest future?
I am not a politician but I have been involved in several campaigns especially last year, but to become one, I don’t have the strength to be a politician. Only few politicians know who God is.
If you know who God is, it is difficult for you to go into politics.
If you know the kind of cartel and syndicates they have to be part of as politicians, then it is difficult to serve God. I do not want to jeopardise my relationship with God so I don’t think politics is for me.
As a Brand Ambassador of BetBonanza, what should we expect and hope it won’t affect your integrity if things go wrong?
I have been a brand ambassador for an agency in the past, but things didn’t go well as planned, so I decided to stay back, but when the CEO of BetBonanza called me, our first discussion was to ask him how real and what does it entail, because they must service the need of people who put their resources into the business.
We had a fruithful discussion; he gave me his name for me to investigate which I did, and I was able to know that he has been around for a while, in fact from when betting came into Nigeria.
He has worked with different agencies until God gave him the resources to start his own outfit. Its not just about starting an agency, you must know what it entails and that’s part of our discussion. As an ambassador, I just pray I don’t see the dark side like I did in the previous one.
They have to do the right thing, and it is our job to keep pushing them to do the right thing and satisfy the customers.
NSCDC, Army dominate volleyball teams
Nigeria Volleyball Federation has released the list of players to represent Nigeria at the 2019 All Africa Games in Rabat, Morocco; and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigerian Army as well as the Nigeria Police Force made the cut.
Nigeria will face Morocco, Mauritius and Botswana in Pool A in the men and women categories at the games. According to the list released by the Technical Director, Nigeria Volleyball Federation, Martins Melandi, the team consists of 12 men and 12 women.
Three foreign players have been included in the men’s team they are: Arinze Nwachukwu (Fenerbahçe, Turkey), Uchenna Ofoha (Netzhoppers, Germany), and Samuel Ogwuche (Asaria, Libya) and nine home based players who participated at the Division one and Premier League. They will be coached by Japheth Nuhu and Taiwo Oladipupo.
The women’s team has one foreign player, Mercy Promise (Cyprus) and eleven home based players tutored by one time Most Valuable Player in Africa, Usman Abdullah and former Kano Super Star player, Moses Babamusa.
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