After his impressive midweek performance for the Super Eagles in the international friendly with Ukraine, Alex Iwobi turns his attention back to the English Premier League hoping to do same for Everton this afternoon against Bournemouth, writes TUNDE SULAIMAN
Fresh from missing a weekend of domestic football in order to accommodate national team football in the shape of Euro 2020 qualifiers, the attention switches back to the Premier League this Sunday with Match Day Five action continuing.
Although the “big boys” in the shape of Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, all saw action yesterday, there is still a feast of football to saviour this afternoon from the teams desperate to make a statement.
Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth kick off the schedule with a tricky home tie against inform Everton at 2pm, while Arsenal has a trip to Vicarage Road to play Watford, who became the first team to do away with their manager, when they announced the departure of Javi Gracia during the international break.
In his place returned 54-year-old Quique Sánchez Flores for his second stint in charge of The Hornets.
However, Howe will be hoping that the international break would have been enough time to pick up his players after their chastising trip to the King Power Stadium on Match Day Four where the Cherries were completely outplayed by the Foxes.
Although the 3-1 score line hints that perhaps they did try, in truth the result totally masks the lacklustre performance of the visiting side that scored from their only shot on target.
Jamie Vardy scored twice and made the other as an impressive Leicester showed the Cherries no mercy.
In fact the 2016 surprise champions could have had more but Harvey Barnes and Soyuncu both curled efforts narrowly wide from promising positions.
Howe will have to decide if he will be sticking with Aaron Ramsdale between the sticks or opting for 39-year-old former Polish international, Artur Boruc.
The 21-year-old goalkeeper, who was making just his fourth top-flight appearance having spent last season on-loan at League One AFC Wimbledon, was also given an equally uncomfortable afternoon at King Power Stadium and looked extremely shaky when presented with the ball at his feet.
On one occasion, Ramsdale thought he had more time as Vardy darted into the box and stuck out a foot to a short pass, which fortunately rolled straight back into the hands of the keeper.
Vardy stung Ramsdale’s hands with a thumping drive from the edge of the area and it was his industry, not giving up on a loose ball, which allowed for the second, rolling the ball across the six-yard area for Tielemans to tuck home.
However, besides the shaky performance of the England U21 goaltender, most of the Cherries players in front of him also failed to show up on Match Day Four and Howe must not allow that happen again this afternoon if he is to stop the slide down the table.
Currently 15th, Bournemouth has only managed one win out of the four so far played and face a side full of confidence after their 3-2 victory over Wolves.
Bournemouth finished 14th in the league last season, losing half of their 38 games, and this looks like being another inconsistent season for them.
Eddie Howe’s side were barely given a sniff by the hosts, former Coventry striker Wilson evading the offside trap to score just three minutes after Vardy’s opener, but they were unable to build on it.
On-loan midfielder Harry Wilson, who has made a positive start in a red-and-black shirt, failed to engineer any opportunities before being brought off on 64 minutes, while Joshua King was also quiet.
Summer signing Philip Billing and Jefferson Lerma put themselves about in the middle of the park, but Bournemouth lack a creative spark.
Speaking after the game, Howe was man enough to admit his side had been outplayed.
“There were bits in the first half we were pleased with. The goals killed us – from the first to the third. We’ve gifted them goals. It gave us a mountain to climb,” he said.
He knows he cannot afford another display like that especially in front of home fans, but he equally knows that sixth-placed Everton will not be easy push overs.
Everton manager Marco Silva would have been delighted with this side’s last league outing in which they got the better of a very impressive Wolves side, 3-2 in an entertaining game at Goodison Park.
Wolves, which had been the scourge of the “big teams in their promotion year last season, just could not handle the Toffees’ Brazilian international, Richarlison who scored a brace.
Richarlison’s performance prompted his manager to by every effusive in his praise of his once most expensive signing calling him “the spirit inside our dressing room” after the match.
“Richarlison is the type of player that needs good performances and if possible to win more confidence in the way he likes to play,” Silva said.
“Last season, he did all the pre-season for us. This season, he did Copa America and after was on holiday and started the first game against Crystal Palace with 13 days working with us.
“He scored two really important goals for us. He will keep improving, for sure.
“We are talking about a fantastic football player and a fantastic boy. He is the spirit inside our dressing room.”
Unfortunately Howe cannot only formulate a game plane to checkmate the Brazilian, because Silva also has other players at his disposal that can hurt him and one of them is Nigerian international Alex Iwobi.
In a late surprise transfer move, the 23-year-old Super Eagles star decided to end his 15-year sojourn with Arsenal to head to Merseyside in a £34 million five-year deal, ostensibly because he wanted more first team playing time.
And since his arrival, Iwobi, who has scored six times in 36 appearances for Nigeria, has proved that he did not make a mistake in becoming a virtual regular starter for Silva.
And he has repaid the Portuguese’s faith in him by scoring two vital goals in his two starts –the first was a crucial one in the League Cup to break the stubborn resistance of League One Lincoln City in a 4-2 win, while he was on hand to convert Gylfi Sigurdsson’s pin-point cross to restore the Toffees’ lead before 12 minutes had passed in the clash with Wolves.
Incidentally, Everton went into the Wolves game having only scored one goal in their previous three Premier League matches.
But with Iwobi and Moise Kean making their first league starts, the Toffees looked transformed in the attacking third.
The summer signings added extra verve to Everton’s attack and allowed more space and time for Richarlison and Sigurdsson to work their magic.
Behind them, Fabian Delph provided some muscle and awareness to keep the Wolves midfield in check.
Kean made a telling contribution in the build-up to Everton’s first goal, his hustling causing confusion in the home defence and allowing Richarlison to pounce for his first goal in the fifth minute.
Left out of Italy’s Euro 2020 squad that beat Finland last Sunday, Kean has a lot to prove that he is the man that can properly lead the line for the Toffees and should thus be all fired up, especially after featuring for the Azzurri’s U21s.
This may be bad news for Howe in his quest to stop the slide with a master tactical game plan to cage the Toffees, who with Iwobi in fine form will love nothing more than to pick all three points of the Cherries at Dean Court.
Some 24 kilometres northwest of central London, Unai Emery faces a much different problem then Howe, the Arsenal manager is going up against a side that is expected to receive a massive lift with the return of their popular manager, Quique Sanchez Flores.
It was during the first tenure of the former Spanish international, who was a member of the Italia’90 World Cup squad, that the Hornets enjoyed some of their best success in the top flight.
When he was first appointed on June 5, 2015 Flores to be the head coach of the newly promoted Premier League side in December, the team won three and lost only one of their league matches, earning him the Premier League Manager of the Month accolade; his forward Odion Ighalo earned the equivalent award for his five-goal haul that month.
However, despite going on to lead the team to a comfortable mid-table position and the semi-finals of the FA Cup, it was announced on May 13, 2016 that Flores would be leaving at the end of the season.
Thus fans will be hoping that the former right-back will be able to get his side purring once again and they would love nothing better than to see the Hornets lift the scalp of the Gunners today.
But in spite of the expected lift by the home side, Emery can still bask in the knowledge that historically Vicarage Road is a good hunting ground for the Gunners.
In 30 previous meetings between the two, Arsenal has won 17 of them. In fact the last time the Hornets triumphed over the London outfit was during the 2017 campaign when they did the double over their more illustrious visitors – winning 2-1 in both the home and away fixtures. Incidentally, Watford captain, Troy Deeney played a big part scoring in both legs.
However, since the last triumph on October 14, 2017, the Gunners have subsequently won three straight league meetings putting six goals past the Hornets without conceding any.
But if there is one stat that Flores can look at with some form of solace it is the fact that for some funny reason Arsenal has not been good travellers. In fact had their road form been as good as their form at the Emirates, the Gunners would have been playing in the more prestigious Champions League rather than the Europa League.
Last season Arsenal lost eight times away from The Emirates and included some surprise defeats at West Ham, Wolves and Everton amongst others.
So far this season, the only away loss as been at Anfield a 3-1 reversal, which Emery knows that had his players taken their chances the result, might have ended differently.
Today the Spaniard is likely to go for a win at Vicarage Road in order to keep in touch with the early pacesetters, Liverpool and Manchester City.
On his part, ever the pragmatist, Flores will most likely set his team up to hit on the counter, which should give both sets of fans a lot to either enjoy or gnash their teeth.
Match Day 5 games conclude tomorrow night with newly promoted Aston Villa, currently in 18th place, hosting seventh placed West Ham.
Bahrain stun Saudi Arabia to lift Gulf Cup title
Bahrain clinched the Arabian Gulf Cup title for the first time with a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the final on Sunday.
Mohamed Al-Rumaihi netted the second-half winner for Bahrain to end their 49-year wait for a maiden Gulf Cup title.
Saudi Arabia captain Salman Al-Farag missed a first-half penalty, reports Reuters.
The Saudi team have now lost in the final four times in the last six editions of the competition and have not won the title since 2004.
I’m coming for you, Joshua tells Wilder
…as Ruiz demands rematch
nthony Joshua would “love” the opportunity to unify his world heavyweight belts in a clash with Deontay Wilder, but insists he will not rush into any fight having seen off Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The Brit boxer, 30, reclaimed the WBA, IBF and WBO titles he lost to the Mexican-American on June 1, coming through the rematch at the Diriyah Arena to the north-west of Riyadh to win comfortably on a unanimous decision.
Joshua put together a cool and calculated performance to avenge the only defeat thus far in his professional career, which now stands at 23 victories from 24 bouts.
And, having become a two-time heavyweight champion, thoughts quickly turned to his desire to unify the division. That entails a potential bout with WBC title-holder Wilder, who is scheduled to meet Tyson Fury in their rematch in February.
Asked if he has sights on a possible unification bout, Joshua said: “Yeah, definitely. I would love to. It’s hard to keep them, to unite them. I’m sure PBC [promoters of both Ruiz and Wilder] were desperately rooting for Andy to win. But we came and put a spanner in the works. We’ll see what happens.
“If I’m chasing it, like in a fight I’m chasing the right hand, I’m chasing the left hook, it may come crashing down. And I realise that chasing a fight wasn’t to my benefit. So I’m just going to let the path take its course.
“I’ve got amazing people around me, a great team, and when the opportunity presents itself to be undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, you know me by now, I’m going to take the challenge.”
However, Wilder said early Sunday that a unification bout “would never happen”.
Joshua’s win against Ruiz, under the rain and in front of a capacity 15,000 crowd in Diriyah, was viewed by many as redemption for his shock loss in the summer. Back then, the unbeaten champion was expected to cruise past his opponent – a late replacement for Jarrell Miller – but he was knocked down four times en route to a TKO in the seventh round. It is considered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history.
Yet, having slumped to defeat and having climbed back to the summit, Joshua rejected suggestions it has been a year of lessons and learning.
“What have I learned? Nothing new,” he said. “It’s just what I’m built for. I just like fighting. It’s a shame, because everyone likes me fighting when I’m winning, but hate me when I lost. For me personally, looking at myself in the mirror, I just love fighting.
“I didn’t learn anything new. Before boxing I was a little fighter, I started boxing and I continued to fight. I just learned that I still love the game, that’s all it is.”
Meanwhile, Ruiz Jr has called for a rematch again after Anthony Joshua won back an array of world heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, but the Mexican-American cannot expect to be at the front of the queue.
“Who wants to see the third trilogy fight right here? In Saudi Arabia baby,” Ruiz called out to the crowd at the Diriyah Arena.
Joshua had sounded receptive to the idea – “if you heard, we’re going to do it a third,” he said – but promoter Eddie Hearn would not be drawn after a bout won clinically on a unanimous points decision against a flabby-looking opponent.
CAF Confed: Enyimba beat San Pedro
nyimba Football Club returned to winning ways at Enyimba International Stadium, Aba on Sunday, as they narrowly beat FC San Pedro of Ivory Coast 1-0 in the Group-D second match of the ongoing Total CAF Confederations Cup.
Striker, Martins Esule, scored in the 64th minute to give the Aba club the win, after coming on a substitute in place of striker, Sampson Obi, who never had the best of game following a general lackluster performance from the entire team.
The People’s Elephant lost their first match in Group-D 2-0 to Hassania Agadir, in the city of Agadir in Morocco, which left them bottom of the group, after the other teams in the group, FC San Pedro played a draw with Paradou Athletic Club of Algeria in the city of San-Pedro, in Ivory Coast.
FC San Pedro will no doubt be disappointed with the result, as they will feel that they could have picked up the maximum points from the fixture had they taken their chances throughout the game, after dominating Enyimba in the first half.
The lackluster performance from the Usman Abd’Allah led Enyimba was very visible by the reactions of the fans, and did not go without consequences as Ifeanyi Anaemena, the team’s dependable captain, was ruled out for three weeks after he sustained an injury and was replaced by Abiodun Adebayo.
Reacting to his team’s performance, Coach Usman Abd’Allah, said he is happy his team got the required three points notwithstanding the performance which was never perfect.
Abd’Allah however said that the 2PM schedule for the match was no excuse for their poor first half performance.
He stressed that the team had too many injuries coupled with the injection of new players who are yet to understand other players in the team fully.
The Enyimba coach however assured the fans that the team will improve from game to game and will not waste much time to get to their required level where all supporters will be happy to watch.
Enyimba Captain, Ifeanyi Anaemena said that the first half performance of the team which everyone complained about in Morocco which repeated in the match against San Pedro is something the team will always improve on with time.
Anaemena who confirmed his the gravity of his injury to the press added that getting the three points after such poor performance in the first half is very important as points are very precious in a group competition.
The goal scorer, Martins Esule, said he is delighted to have helped the team gain the required three points.
Esule who is gradually becoming a local hero for always coming up with goals from the bench, said he usually reads the game properly before coming as he most have observed the errors in the game.
He dedicates the victory to the fans and expressed his gratitude to the Almighty God for giving him the grace to always deliver for Enyimba.
Meanwhile, Enyimba Chairman, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, debunked the rumours that the 2PM time of the match has to do with lack of flood light at the Enyimba Stadium. He said the stadium is fully ready to even host night matches.
Anyansi-Agwu explained that the time for every CAF match is determined by CAF, stressing that Enyimba is not in control of the time.
He however added that the timing affected both the turn out of spectators and the performance of the players.
The Head Coach of FC San Pedro, Khemaies Labidi, said his team played very well and will always improve because they are young players.
Iheanacho scores as Leicester bury Villa
Kelechi Iheanacho continued his revival after he shone again as Leicester City recorded their eighth straight English Premier League win courtesy of a 4-1 win at Aston Villa.
Iheanacho scored a goal and provided an assist, just as he had done in the dramatic win against Everton.
The striker, who started his first EPL game this season at Villa, first set up Jamie Vardy to open scoring in the 20th minute, before he himself netted from the first post on 41 minutes.
He has now scored two goals and provided two assists in the league.
It is the form that originally got Leicester to splash 25 million pounds on him.
Leicester City remain second on the table with 38 points from 16 matches, eight points behind leaders Liverpool.
AFN crisis sad for athletics – Gusau
…accuses Sports Ministry of taking sides
The embattled president of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, Ibrahim Gusau, has said the ongoing crisis in the AFN is sad for the sport in the country especially with Olympic Games just few months away.
Speaking at a press conference organised in Lagos on Sunday, the president said everything they were doing as a board has been with the best interests of athletes in mind and an innate desire to develop athletics in Nigeria.
He said they are open to discussion while also calling on all Nigerians to ask questions as there are so many left unanswered.
Meanwhile, Gusau has accused the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development of taking sides in the ongoing crisis rocking the federation.
He said the ministry did so by endorsing the board meeting that took place in Abuja recently leading to the suspension of the president by seven other board members.
“It is common knowledge that the AFN is having misunderstandings, especially within the board of the federation.
“It is also obvious that the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports has taken sides by issuing a press statement endorsing the purported board meeting held on Tuesday, December 3, in Abuja. If this is not interference, one wonders what is,” he said
Reacting to some of the issues raised by the ministry of sports which claimed that Gusau actually convened the Abuja meeting, the president said he couldn’t have call for a meeting and likewise be absent from such.
Citing several documents and instances, he said his problem with the ministry started after he submitted himself to the several security agencies in the country to be investigated over the overpaid World Athletic’s $135,000.
He added: “On the inauguration of our board in July, 2017, I was confronted with an allegation in respect of USD150,000 paid to the AFN. I was accused of mismanaging the funds and in keeping with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to accountability and transparency, I submitted myself to the relevant agencies for investigation.
“The individual reports exonerated me from any culpability but raised questions which the agencies are diligently pursuing.
“My action in submitting myself to be investigated laid the foundation for the misunderstandings being experienced in the AFN today.
“This is part of the reasons we seek autonomy to enable us increase the funding base of the Federation. The sponsorship deal signed with Puma attests to the capacity of this Board to attract private funding for sports from within and outside the country.
“The autonomy we are talking about is in so far as administering the Federation is concerned and had always been in existence in the statutes of the AFN, the CAA and the WA.”
Chinese club chases Troost-Ekong
top Chinese Super League club are preparing a move for Super Eagles assistant captain William Troost-Ekong.
Respected French agent of Cameroonian descent, Ivo Chi was spotted in the stands during Udinese’s Serie A match against Napoli on Saturday at the Dacia Arena (Udine).
Allnigeriasoccer.com has been doing some digging on Chi’s presence at the stadium and it is confirmed that the German-based intermediary, who has close ties to Cameroon legend Samuel Eto’o and scouts for a Chinese club, came to run the rule over Troost-Ekong.
The Chinese club were impressed with the performance of the Nigeria international and are interested in bringing him to China as from the January transfer window.
Ekong extended his contract with Udinese in November, keeping him at the Bianconeri until the end of the 2022-2023 season.
Before the 26-year-old inked a new deal with Udinese, he was receiving 400,000 euros per season, and he is set for a big pay day if his move to China materializes.
The Dutch-born center back previously represented clubs in Netherlands, England, Belgium, Turkey and Norway.
Joshua’s victory restored confidence, says Ogun gov
gun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, on Sunday, felicitated with world heavyweight boxing champion, Anthony Joshua, for reclaiming his belts in a rematch with Mexican opponent, Andy Ruiz Jnr.
Abiodun noted that the Sagamu, Ogun State-born boxer made Nigerians proud by his victory and restored confidence that the nation will be great again.
Joshua had, on Saturday night, defeated Ruiz in a 12-round bout held in Saudi Arabia, making him to regain the titles lost to same opponent back in June.
“I congratulate Anthony on this successful outing. May he continue with the winning streak ad infinitum,” Abiodun said while congratulating the boxer on Sunday.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, the governor said Joshua displayed the “Ogun standard of excellence” by reclaiming all the titles in the rematch with Ruiz.
According to him, the fight kept sleep away from the eyes of many admirers of AJ worldwide, especially the people of Ogun State.
He noted that the professional boxer outclassed his opponent over 12 rounds “to compensate them (admirers) and reassured us that hard work pays.”
Abiodun attributed the outcome to the manifestation of God’s love for the people of the state who prayed ceaselessly for Joshua that the nightmarish experience of New York earlier in the year be reversed.
He said, “God still answers prayers. We return all the glory to God Almighty for granting our hearts’ desires and ceaseless prayers for our brother, Anthony Joshua, to regain the IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
“All of us in the state, irrespective of our religious affiliations prayed for his success. That the feat happened in Saudi Arabia doubly excites me. God answered us.”
“My joy is unquantifiable,” the governor said, adding: “our government has always dimensioned sports as not only a unifying factor but a socio-economic imperative.”
He also lauded Anthony Joshua for his determination, hard work, resilience and focus which he described as virtues ingrained in the DNA of Ogun people.
“He has made us proud by exhibiting these traits and the can-do spirit of Ogun people,” Abiodun added.
The governor noted that Joshua’s victory should inspire other aspiring champions of Ogun State origin to do more.
He said, “On our part, we would provide the necessary incentives to all our ambitious young men and women to become world champions in all considerable areas of sports – not only in boxing.
“We are poised to fix our stadia, upgrade facilities, train sportsmen and women, motivate coaches and develop talents starting from the grassroots.”
Abiodun called on all stakeholders to be concerned about hunting for and developing talents.
The governor noted that with sports, more people would be pulled out of poverty, while insecurity, social strife and crimes would be kept in check.
Nigerians must learn from Joshua – Buhari
resident Muhammadu Buhari has described Saturday night’s triumph by the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Anthony Joshua, as a lesson all Nigerians must learn about Keeping faith with hope.
President Buhari was reacting to Joshua’s come-back victory after an earlier defeat by Andy Ruiz Jnr., noting that to fall once does not mean all hope is lost, adding that the world champion’s victory had brought more glory to Nigeria.
The President, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, on Sunday morning, however rejoiced with Joshua, commending him for bringing joy to millions of Nigerians, home and abroad.
“President Muhammadu Buhari thumbs up World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Anthony Joshua, for regaining his belts Saturday night in a rematch with Mexican, Andy Ruiz Jnr.
“The President rejoices with Joshua, saluting him for bringing joy to millions of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, who had rooted for him to regain the titles he lost about six months ago
“The downfall of a man is truly not the end of his life. There’s always another, and better day. This is a lesson we must all learn from you as a country,” President Buhari tells the comeback world champion.
He wishes Anthony Joshua well as he seeks to bring more glory to Nigeria, and to the boxing profession.
American varsity’s coaches poach talents in Lagos
wo football coaches from leading universities in United States are due in Lagos this month, with offers of all-expense paid trips abroad and scholarships to a number of talented secondary school students to attend tertiary institutions in the US after a three-day talent hunt programme.
The programme will take place at First Bank Field, Satellite Town, Lagos from December 20 to 22 under the aegis of USA-based Angels of the World (AOTW), an NGO that has former FC Ebedei of Sagamu striker, Machael David (Omasaro) among its directors.
David said the programme, First College Showcase in Nigeria, would afford six young footballers opportunities to exhibit their passion for football and education as the coaches take notes.
The successful among the players would get opportunities to attend University of California Santa Barbara, USA fully-paid athletic scholarship, which the AOTW co-founder said would aid discovery of Nigeria’s next super stars.
David was scouted playing for Santana Boys of Ojo, under the care of Coach Iyke Anyaji and took him to FC Ebedei, where he was given the opportunity to travel abroad.
“God used football to take me to America to save my life. I am now committed to helping children all over Africa to discover who they were created to be,” he said while narrating a blood ailment that almost claimed his life.
“Whoever has a school boy who possesses what it takes to be one of the few to be selected should encourage such to join the others who want
to impress the scouts,” David concluded.
Ayorinde, Abbi win Senforce Insurance titles
…as Ikoyi Club prepares for Accra meet
he first edition of Senforce Insurance Brokers Tennis Masters ended at the weekend at the Ikoyi Club 1938 in Lagos with the top seeds losing the titles.
Top seeded Emeka Azinge lost in the semis just as number two seed Sesan Dada was beaten in the final of the Mens Single Group B match.
Number three seed Bola Ayorinde put up an amazing performance to beat Dada in straight sets of 6/3, 6/4 at the main court of the Ikoyi Club 1938.
In the Group A Men’s final, Nishant Abbi also was too good for Ezomo Imoukhuede as Abbi won 6/3, 6/3 to emerge group champion.
It was a fun-filled final for the elated club members as they cheered the finalists during the two matches that were highly competitive and interesting.
The Chairman of the tennis section, Bimbo Okubena, who spoke with our correspondent on the telephone, said he was happy with the overall standard of the competition.
Okubena showered praises on the sponsors and urged other corporate bodies to come to the aid of the elite club.
The Tennis section boss said: “This has been an amazing year for us at the tennis section and we are not done just yet. We thank our new sponsors and believe all the events staged this year will also come up in 2020 with other new ones joining.”
Okubena revealed that the club is warming up for a trip to Ghana later in the week for a two-day tournament in Accra.
“We have an event in Ghana starting on December 12 and we hope to still thrill our members before or during the yuletide period,” he added.
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