On paper not many believe Bournemouth can get the better of Manchester City today, but for Eddy Howe and his Cherries they have absolutely nothing to lose going all-out against the champions, notes Tunde Sulaiman
efore the new season kicked off, most football pundits and bookies had made champions, Manchester City their runaway favourites to retain their Premier League title and thus become the first team after their city rivals, United, to make it a hat trick of titles since 1999.
And this prediction appeared spot on when City opened the new campaign in stunning fashion – putting five past West Ham United, who is now coached by the man who secured the Citizens second Premier League title, Manuel Pellegrini in 2014.
However, while many had expected a City win in their opening match, while many acknowledge that their second game would be a much sterner test; not many would have still bet against another win for the champions against Tottenham Hotspur.
Although it was the London-based side that had ended Pep Guardiola’s UEFA Champions League dreams in the quarter-finals last season, most still expected that this would serve as an additional incentive for City to get their pound of flesh over Spurs.
This appeared to be the case when the Citizens flew out of the blocks in the early stages of the game totally overwhelming the visiting team.
In fact in the opening 15 minutes, City had 68.6% of possession, strangling Tottenham and refusing to let them get into the game at all.
And when they took an early lead, courtesy of a Raheem Sterling header in the 20’ minute it appeared that the home side would be cruising to another routine victory, while Tottenham’s players trudged back to the centre circle, looking at each other and wondering how they were going to stop the relentless onslaught of attack after attack.
But somehow Erik Lamela was able to fashion an equaliser against the run of play with a strike from distance three minutes after Sterling’s goal to paint a false picture of how the game had been panning out.
Only two more shots came in the second half. One was from Harry Kane from the halfway line and was well wide, and just one was on target – Lucas Moura’s header just 19 seconds after he replaced Harry Winks.
Tottenham only managed three crosses from open play too and didn’t win a single corner in the first half, which was almost completely dominated by the home side.
The arrival of midfielder Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon for a club record £54m sparked understandable excitement among Tottenham fans.
He impressed during pre-season, grabbing an assist against Juventus with his first touch as a second-half substitute, and scored a fine goal on his Premier League debut against Aston Villa last week.
But despite working hard and winning more tackles than anyone else (five), he couldn’t provide the creative spark that Tottenham needed at the Etihad, while Christian Eriksen put in a performance that suggested he wasn’t settled amid transfer speculation, which continues to link him with a move away.
The second half almost mirrored what transpired in the first and when Sergio Aguero flicked home Kevin de Bruyne’s cross it appeared that City’s greater domination of the game would be rewarded with all three points.
But substitute Lucas Moura nodded in seconds after coming on as a substitute to pull Spurs level again.
City may look at a shot count of 30-3 in their favour and wonder how they didn’t win. But in the end, Tottenham took their chances – as few as they were – and came away from the Etihad with a highly creditable 2-2 draw against the defending champions.
It is the first time City had dropped points at home since losing to Crystal Palace on December 22 last year.
While dropping two points in just the second game of the season is not potentially damaging to a club’s title aspirations, the closeness of the race last season in which City only edged Liverpool by a lone point, shows the fine margins which exist in today’s game.
But perhaps more importantly the manner of Spurs’ draw is now a lifeline to visiting teams on how to play the champions – ride your luck and take whatever chances come your way.
One manager who would have digested all he can from the match is Eddie Howe whose side, Bournemouth was on the receiving end of two defeats against today’s foes last season.
Bournemouth lost 3-1 at the Etihad in the first leg and although they put up a sterner test in the reverse fixture, it stll ended in a respectable 1-0 defeat at Dean Court.
Last campaign, the club had a strong start, sitting in sixth place after the first 12 rounds. However, their form regressed for the remainder of the season and Bournemouth finished in 14th place – securing a fifth season in the Premier League.
Eddie Howe could truthfully point to injures he battled in the second stanza as one of the reasons for the club’s drop in form, with Lewis Cook, Simon Francis shelved amongst others. In the end, Bournemouth finished in 14th place, securing a fifth season in the Premier League, which would have delighted their fans in no small measure.
But for Howe this season showing signs of improvement by finishing better than 14th will no doubt be weighing heavily on his mind.
Although taking points off the champions will definitely be a very tall order considering the gulf in class between the two sets of players – not to talk about the two managers; one a serial winner and the other yet to win any major trophy.
While not getting heavily beat will be Howe’s pre-occupation, for Pep it is more likely coming to grips with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) decisions after he was denied victory last weekend because of it to ensure his side dropped points at home for the first time since losing to Crystal Palace on December 22 last year.
“We have to accept it,” said Guardiola after the game ended 2-2.
“It’s tough because we scored a goal late on. But ask VAR people, not me,” he added.
Clearly frustrated with the outcome of the match, the Argentine, who had scored the second goal for city, was seen exchanging angry words with Guardiola when he was substituted for Jesus, but the City boss dismissed that as a misunderstanding.
“He thought I was annoyed with him for the goal we conceded,” said Guardiola. “But it is emotions, and that is part of the game. We talked afterwards. I love him a lot because we know his feelings.”
How the two get along today will be one of the talking points, especially should the unthinkable happen and Howe’s side is able to take all three points off the champions.
Tottenham Hotspur still basking in the euphoria of their draw with Manchester City last weekend will be favouring their chances against Newcastle United in the 4.30pm kick-off.
It is already looking bleak for Steve Bruce, who has seen his side slump to two straight defeats.
The setbacks would not have done anything to enhance his reputation with the Magpies fans who still have an axe to grind with club owner (Mike Ashley) for allowing their popular manager, Rafa Benitez leave over the summer.
The fans’ fury is no doubt fuelled by the fact that the same Ashley who seemed never to have money to back their now departed favourite, suddenly found some to give the former Sheffield Wednesday manager.
And Bruce, who won 12 trophies including three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup as a player with Manchester United, did spend Ashley’s clash in bringing in six players, notably securing Joelinton from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim for £40 million, breaking the club’s transfer fee record previously set by the purchase of Miguel Almirón for £21 million six months earlier.
But in spite of spending heavily over the summer, the Magpies are still floundering and are already some bookies’ favourites to drop out of the Premier League at the end of the campaign even though only two games have so far been played.
Before Match Day Three games kicked off on Friday, Newcastle was only one of four teams yet to secure a point and was only 18th on the log because it had conceded fewer goals than the two sides below them – Southampton and Watford.
Sadly for the 58-year-old former United skipper, his poor managerial winning percentage which currently stands at just 38.4% does not seem likely to improve against a side riding high in sixth spot on the table.
Maurico Pochettino, who will be welcoming in Bruce to his side’s new impressive stadium, is one of the most respected coaches in the business especially as he has been able to keep Spurs challenging for trophies despite not spending a kobo in two previous transfer windows until this summer.
The 47-year-old Argentine-born tactician was able to take his Spurs to the final of last season’s UEFA Champions League where they eventually lost 2-0 to Liverpool, while they will again compete in the world’s top club competition this season after finishing fourth last campaign.
Pochettino was finally rewarded for all the hard work he had done with the London outfit by being allowed to finally end his transfer wilderness this summer with the signing of five new players including one, Giovani Lo Celso, a midfielder from Real Betis.
In total, Spurs’ Chairman, Daniel Levy authorised the sending of £90,000,000 this summer with the bulk of this going on just three players – midfielder, Tanguy Ndombele a £55,000,000 purchase from Lyon in France, left wingback, Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham for £25,000,000 and right wingback, Jack Clarke from Leeds United for £10,000,000.
However, even without these new arrivals Spurs twice beat the visiting side when they met in the league last season and from all indications should make it a hatrick of wins today.
In the final game of the round, 13th placed Wolves host Burnley, which is three places above them, hoping to get their first win under their belt.
In their last game, played Monday night, they were able to secure a creditable 1-1 draw against Manchester United, which lost a second half penalty, to make it two draws from their first two games.
However, it is not known how much Thursday’s Europa League play-off tie with Italian side Torino in Turin, would have taken out of Nuno Espirito Santo’s side even though they won 3-2.
Incidentally, today’s foe Burnley was adversely affected by their foray in Europe so much so that for much of the start of the season they were flirting with relegation before they picked up after they were knocked out of the Europa League.
All said and done though, the three fixtures should serve up another afternoon of highs and lows for the lovers of English football.
NPFL: Kwara Utd pip Lobi in Okowa pre-season tournament
Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa yesterday unveiled the Nigerian Professional Football League preseason tournament at the budding Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, the state capital, with a charge on catch-them-young strategy.
This came as Kwara United and Lobi Stars of Markurdi lock horns on the stadium’s pitch of play for the finals of the Governor’s tournament and the former won the fourth edition.
The Governor, who said the state will continue to sustain its leading role in sports, maintained that hospitality will remain its watchword.
Represented at the ceremony by his Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, the Governor was elated that his name, “Governor Okowa’s Preseason Torunament,” which symbolises Delta State, on the logo, will further enshrine the name of the state on sports’ goldmine.
He charged the young professionals of the two finalist football clubs to make the event a unifying factor and an edifying tournament that will bring succour to Nigerians, despite the economic quagmire.
At the last blow of the encounter after the count of 90 minutes, which resulted into penalty shootout, and Kwara United defeated Lobi Stars 1-0.
Eagles drop one spot in FIFA rankings
The Super Eagles of Nigeria has dropped one spot from the position they occupied last month in the latest FIFA rankings released by the World football ruling body on Thursday.
Nigeria was ranked 33rd in the world in the last rankings but they currently occupied the 34th position according to the August/September 2019 edition.
The team only last week played a 2-2 draw against Ukraine in an international friendly game at the Dnipro Stadium, their first game after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where the team finished third.
Coach Gernot Rohr’s men, however, gained one point, cumulating 1482 points from the previous 1481 points.
In the African ranking, Nigeria maintained its third place despite the drop in the world ranking, with Senegal and Tunisia also maintaining their first and second positions respectively.
Algeria climbed two places in the world rankings and are fourth on the African ranking behind Nigeria, while Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Cameroon, Congo DR, and Cote D’Ivoire occupy the fifth to tenth positions respectively.
Meanwhile, Belgium remained top of the world ranking, with France, Brazil, England, and Portugal making up the top 5.
Belgium continues to hold its place as the topmost country on the FIFA world rankings.
Uruguay, Spain, Croatia, Colombia and Argentina are the other countries who make up the top 10 of the latest FIFA rankings.
The next edition is expected to be announced on October 24.
GOtv Boxing Night 20: Opeyemi: I’m a big deal, boasts
Highly rated bantamweight boxer, Opeyemi “Sense Adeyemi”, has boasted that he will be the next national champion in his weight division after his fight with Sadiq Adeleke at GOtv Boxing Night 20, which takes place on October 12 at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
The 19-year-old, who was voted best boxer at GOtv Boxing NextGen Search 4, has described himself as a “big deal,” the reason he has remained undefeated since turning professional.
In a telephone chat yesterday, Adeyemi said his opponent was coming to the venue for sightseeing, as he had no chance of winning.
“This is my first opportunity at fighting for a title. The national title is a big deal to me and, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m a big deal as a boxer. Adeleke is just coming to watch. He should watch as much as he can before the fight begins, otherwise he’d have lost the opportunity because I will daze him like he’s never been dazed before,” he said.
The Lagos-born boxer, who caught the eye at GOtv Boxing NextGen Search 3 but was not selected because he was a year too young, explained that he has been undergoing rigorous training and following dietary instructions to ensure that he is in premium condition for the fight, which is one of the eight scheduled to hold at the event.
All eyes will, however, be on the headline bout, which will see African Boxing Union (ABU) lightweight champion, Oto “Joe Boy” Joseph, defend his title against the very dangerous Rilwan “Real One” Oladosu, West African Boxing Union (WABU) champion. The bout, which has been dubbed “Fight of the Decade”, is the peak of the rivalry between the two boxers since their amateur days. Both remain undefeated and are ranked as the best in the division. Other big names slated for action are Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, WABU welterweight champion; Ridwan “Scorpion” Oyekola, national super featherweight champion; Adewale “Masevex” Masebinu, national light heavyweight champion; Kabiru “KB Godson Towolawi; former national light heavyweight champion; and Tope “TP Rock” Musa.
Zenith Bank Tennis ignites Lagos Country Club
It promises to be a festivity of tennis at the Lagos Country Club as the 2019 Zenith Bank Tennis Championships is billed to commence Friday.
According to section chairman, Seyi Adewunmi, the tournament which would feature as many as over 80 participants, will keep the club buzzling for the next two weeks.
Adewunmi expressed gratitude to Zenith Bank stressing that the A-tier banking institution is helping people to get longer life through their sponsorship.
Club captain, Kola Ashiru, informed that five events would be competed for namely Men’s Singles (A and B) Men’s Doubles, Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles and Veteran’s Doubles. He disclosed that over 70 players have already registered for the tournament which would also feature a multiple of junior events aims at developing budding talents in the club.
Zenith Bank Assistant General Manager for Retail Banking, Lanre Oladimeji, pointed that the bank has been at the forefront of supporting sporting activities at all fronts in Nigeria and are delighted to be staging a tournament at the Lagos Country Club.
“From the grassroots up to the elite class, we owe the commitment of supporting and sponsoring sports dearly to our hearts and for this tournament; we will continue to give support as the need arises. We have been sponsoring sports for so many years and that tradition will continue for a very long time.”
Responding on behalf of the players, Jide Adefeso, pledged that all participants will imbibe high spirits of sportsmanship while also adding that the sponsors would get full value for their money.
CAF Club Championships: Late NPFL start affected Enyimba, Rangers – Udeze
Former Super Eagles’ defender, Ifeanyi Udeze, has blamed the late kick of the Nigeria Professional Football League on the poor performance of Enyimba and Rangers in the African Continental championships, the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup.
Enyimba played a goalless draw at home to ten-man Al Hilal of Sudan while Rangers lost 2-1 to AS Pelican of Gabon.
Speaking against the backdrop, Udeze said that both clubs went out against teams that were already into the nitty-gritty of league action in their respective countries, unlike Nigeria’s delayed season.
The former PAOK Saloniki of Greece and West Bromwich Albion of England left-back pointed out that the Rangers and Enyimba’s players were yet to get into competitive mood, considering that the NPFL is not on, and he reasoned that determination on their part cannot suffice against opponents who are already in the thick of domestic action.
He reckoned further that build-up friendlies and regular training sessions are not enough to put players into competitive mood, hence his verdict that The Flying Antelopes and Peoples’ Elephant struggled for form in last weekend’s matches against Pelicans of Gabon and Al-Hilal of Sudan respectively.
Udeze argued: “It’s true that they have been training and played some friendly matches before going for the continental fixtures, but training and friendlies are not the same as competitive matches.”
Ghana striker, Gyan, heads to India
Former Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan is heading to the India Super League after joining NorthEast United on a free transfer.
Gyan will travel to Guwahati this weekend to begin the latest leg of a career that has spanned ten clubs and three continents already and he says he is looking forward to it.
“I am extremely excited to start this new chapter in my career,” the 33-year-old said.
“I have heard great things about NorthEast United FC and the Indian Super League and I am thrilled to be a part of it for the upcoming season.
“I am confident that we can better the wonderful season the club had last year.”
He moves to India with a massive reputation honed at international level and during spells at clubs around the world particularly in the United Arab Emirates.
Ghana’s record international goal scorer and the leading African scorer at the World Cup has also played in the top leagues in England, France and Italy as well as China.
NorthEast Executive Director Priya Runchal is hopeful those credentials would reflect in Gyan’s performance at the club.
“We are thrilled to have a player of Gyan’s calibre and experience join our squad,” Runchal said.
“He has continuously delivered excellence at the highest of levels of world football and we are confident that he will add a lot of firepower on the pitch here.”
The club was only formed in 2014 and their highest finish in the Indian Super League was last season as they claimed fourth place, reports the BBC.
Gyan will hope to replace NorthEast’s top scorer from last season Nigeria Bartholomew Ogbeche, who scored 12 goals before leaving to join Indian rivals the Kerala Blasters.
Footballer shot dead in Holland
Former Burton Albion defender Kelvin Maynard has been shot and killed in Amsterdam, Dutch police have confirmed. Police said the player, 32, was shot in his car at around 8.30pm last night while driving in the Langbroekdreef area.
He is believed to have attempted to escape the gunmen by driving towards a nearby fire station, according to ‘De Telegraaf’. Detectives are appealing for witnesses as they search for two suspects who they say escaped on a black scooter.
The suspects were dressed in black, police said.
Officers from the nearby fire station tried to help Maynard after his car crashed into the front of the building but he was unable to be resuscitated.
He died two hours later of his injuries, ‘BBC Sport’ reports.
The Dutch-Surinamese player, who formerly played for Royal Antwerp, was at non-league Dutch club Alphense Boys at the time of his death.
Maynard joined Burton Albion in November 2014 following Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s appointment as manager. Injury restricted him to 10 appearances when the club won the 2014-15 League Two title before he was ruled out by a knee injury he suffered in a pre-season game. He left Burton in January 2017 to join Dutch side Spakenbu.
There were no other injuries in the shooting and nobody was hurt inside the fire station, ‘NL Times’ reports.
* Courtesy: metro.co.uk
Europa League: 17-year-old Greenwood to lead United’s attack against Astana
Teenage striker Mason Greenwood will start Manchester United’s Europa League group game against Astana at Old Trafford on Thursday.
The 17-year-old has already made four substitute appearances in the Premier League this season.
England under-21 defender Axel Tuanzebe will also start, alongside reserve goalkeeper Sergio Romero and Brazilian midfielder Fred.
Winger Daniel James misses out after picking up a knock against Leicester.
The 21-year-old Welshman, who has scored three goals in five league games this season, joins midfielder Paul Pogba, forward Anthony Martial and defender Luke Shaw on the injury list.
However, midfielder Jesse Lingard has recovered from illness and is likely to be involved.
Greenwood had an impressive summer for United, scoring in pre-season victories over Inter Milan and Leeds after making his debut in their Champions League last-16 victory over Paris St-Germain in March.
He will start his first game of the season on Thursday and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has “matured in the last six months”.
“He’s still very young. I remember the kid who just wanted to play with his mates in the under-18s,” said Solskjaer. “Now he’s knocking on the door and his appetite for football must be growing.
“I just don’t want to put too much pressure on him. Mason’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen and I’ve played with a few decent ones.
“When you’re 17, 18, 19 years old, the next game is always the most important one. It doesn’t matter how many you scored last week.
“There will be 11 Astana players living the dream – it is one of the biggest games of their careers – but I want it to be a memorable one for our players as well.”
Tuanzebe made his debut in a 4-0 win over Wigan in the FA Cup in January 2017 and has made nine first-team appearances in total for Manchester United, reports the BBC.
But he has played just one minute in the Premier League this season, coming on as a late substitute in Saturday’s narrow 1-0 victory over Leicester.
“It’s part of the process of growing. I remember my glimpses in the first team at 19 – it wasn’t to be then but now I’m 21 and things are starting to open up more. I know where I want to be going,” said Tuanzebe.
Solskjaer added: “If you don’t throw them in, you don’t know what you’ve got. I don’t see any other way of doing this.
“I’ve always done it wherever I’ve been, that’s my belief as a coach, to give a chance, an opportunity.”
Despite reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, United entered the Europa League following a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.
They won this competition on their last appearance in 2016-17 and have never failed to go beyond the group stages.
It is the first time they come up against Kazakh champions Astana, who are competing in the Europa League for the fourth successive season.
Best of the stats
*This will be the first-ever competitive meeting between an English side and a Kazakh side.
*Manchester United are unbeaten in their past 11 Europa League games (W8, D3).
*In last season’s Europa League, Astana became the third side to have as many as eight points from their opening four group games but fail to qualify for the knockout stages.
*Manchester United have lost their past two home games in European competition – they have never lost three in a row at Old Trafford before.
*After losing six of their first seven away games in major European competition (D1), Astana have lost just one of their past six on the road (W2, D3).
Minister summons NFF to full-day meeting
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, has summoned a meeting with the board of the Nigeria Football Federation in line with the new direction his stewardship is expected to take in the sports sector.
NFF president, Amaju Pinnick and all the members of his executive board are expected to be at the crucial meeting
Authoritative sources in the NFF told our correspondent that the meeting which was at the instance of the Minister of Sports Sunday Dare is scheduled to take place on Friday in Abuja.
The source also added that the meeting would be a full-day meeting aimed at throwing light into many grew areas the new minister should know about.
Our correspondent exclusively leant that the proposed meeting had only three major issues on the cards for discussion.
“The minister is very disturbed about the state of the Nigerian League and that is top on the agenda while the welfare and development national team players are other issues expected to be ironed out.
“Evaluation of the technical ability of all national team coaches is the third item on the agenda even as the problem between the NFF and Super Falcons’ coach, Thomas Dennerby is expected to come to the fore.
“Football is key in Nigerian sports and the meeting is in line with the new direction Sunday Dare wants the sports sector to follow in the weeks ahead.”
Our correspondent also learnt exclusively that after a meeting on Tuesday with three key board members of the NFF, the football federation had invited Falcons Coach Dennerby to a meeting billed to take place weekend in Abuja.
Adekuoroye seals Olympics spot at World Championships
…fights for bronze medal
World No. 3, Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg), has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after reaching the semi-finals of the ongoing 2019 Senior World Wrestling championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
To secure her Olympics spot, the 2017 World silver-medallist overwhelmed North Korea’s In Sun Jong 12-2 via technical superiority in the quarter-finals, after easily beating her opponents in the previous rounds.
However, the back-to-back Commonwealth champion will contest for a bronze medal, as she lost 6-1 to two-time World and Olympic champion Risako Kawai of Japan in the semi-final.
Thursday’s bronze medal match between Adekuoroye and a yet-to-determined opponent is slated for around 1pm Nigerian time (6pm in Kazakhstan), and victory will hand the 25-year-old her second bronze medal at the World Championships following her 2015 feat in Las Vegas, USA.
Meanwhile, in the 76kg category, Nigeria’s Blessing Onyebuchi has a chance of claiming a bronze medal, as she fights in the repechage against Aline da Silva Ferreira of Brazil on Thursday.
The reigning African champion lost to eventual finalist Hiroe Minagawa Suzuki of Japan 10-7 after comfortably leading 7-0 in the their qualification round bout.
Elsewhere, African Games gold-medallist Mercy Genesis (50kg) missed out of a chance to book an Olympic ticket from the World Championships, as she lost 9-9 via passivity to India’s Seema Seema in the repechage.
Team Nigeria’s other representatives at the global showpiece; Blessing Oborududu (68kg), Aminat Adeniyi (62kg) and Emmanuel Ogbonna (74kg) will all begin their quest for glory and Olympic tickets on Thursday.
All top six athletes in their respective weight classes at the tournament will automatically qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
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