Eden Hazard scored twice as Belgium continued their perfect record in Euro 2020 qualifying with a thumping win over Russia.
The Red Devils, who had already qualified, were three goals up by half-time through Eden Hazard’s double and a strike by his brother Thorgan. Romelu Lukaku then added a fourth before Georgi Dzhikiya netted a late consolation for the hosts. Belgium will play their final Group I qualifier at home to Cyprus on Tuesday, reports the BBC. Russia, who had also already booked their place at the finals, were blown away in the first half following a scintillating attacking display from Roberto Martinez’s side.
The away side took the lead midway through the first half when Thorgan Hazard picked up his brother’s pass, cut inside and fired into the top corner.
And Wales eased to a comfortable win in Azerbaijan to ensure their bid to qualify automatically for Euro 2020 will go down to the wire. Kieffer Moore headed the dominant visitors into an early lead, which was doubled when Harry Wilson nodded into an empty net after Daniel James’ fierce swerving shot rebounded off the crossbar and post. Wales maintained their control in the second half and, although Moore and Wilson missed the best chances to extend their advantage, it mattered little as Ryan Giggs’ side coasted to victory.
If Slovakia fail to win away against Croatia in Group E’s other game later on Saturday, Wales will qualify automatically with victory over Hungary in their final fixture in Cardiff on Tuesday.
They are already guaranteed a play-off place thanks to Sweden’s win over Romania in Group F on Friday. But having suffered so many agonising qualifying near misses in the past, Wales will be eager to take the lottery of a play-off out of the equation by beating Hungary to secure what would be only their third appearance at a major tournament.
In Nicosia, John McGinn’s fourth goal in two Scotland games secured a morale-boosting victory in Cyprus and moved Steve Clarke’s side above their hosts into third in Euro qualifying Group I.
But it came after an early let-off when Georgios Efrem’s shot hit the crossbar and appeared to land over the goal line. Ryan Christie curled home a wonderful finish for his first Scotland goal before Efrem volleyed a fine leveller. McGinn’s close-range strike earned the first back-to-back wins under Clarke. While Scotland can no longer qualify for Euro 2020 through the group, the head coach set the target of a third-place finish before their play-off in March. To meet his target, victory in Cyprus was a must, but was far from a formality.
Rodgers signs new Leicester deal to 2025
Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers had signed a contract extension committing him to the club until 2025.
The former Liverpool manager, 46, dismissed speculation earlier this week linking him with the vacant Arsenal job following Unai Emery’s sacking.
Rodgers had signed a deal until 2022 when he joined the Foxes from Celtic in February, reports the BBC.
Leicester have won 17 of their 26 Premier League matches under him and are second in the table.
Rodgers said: “I’ve inherited an outstanding team of staff that are dedicated to progress and improvement and we have a group of players that are a joy to work with every day.”
Leicester’s next Premier League game is away at Aston Villa on Sunday.
Gulf Cup semis: S’Arabia triumphs over Qatar, Bahrain downs Iraq
Saudi Arabia have defeated hosts Qatar 1-0 to set up a showdown against Bahrain in the final of the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup.
Forward Abdullah Alhamddan scored the match’s only goal when he powered home a header in the 28th minute.
Despite creating a host of chances, Qatar’s Maroons were unable to find the back of the net and keep their title hopes alive.
Earlier on Thursday, Bahrain also booked their place in Sunday’s final after a nail-biting win on penalties against three-time winners Iraq.
Qatar and Iraq will vie for the third place at the biennial regional football tournament, reports al-Jazeera.
Brighton’s Maupay piles misery on Ljungberg’s Arsenal at Emirates
*Newcastle out gun Sheffield United 2-0
Rome was not built in a day and Freddie Ljungberg is discovering Arsenal’s decline has hardly been a short-term issue either. It will take a prodigious effort, whether from the new interim head coach or anyone else, to whip this group of players into shape and that impression was confirmed in the starkest terms.
Brighton dominated most of Ljungberg’s first home game in charge, fully deserving the win given to them by Adam Webster and, 10 minutes from the end, Neal Maupay. Arsenal were unable to build on Alexandre Lacazette’s equaliser and many more non-performances like this will strengthen the case for the managerial situation to be resolved as soon as possible, reports the Guardian.
Ljungberg had taken to the dugout in a thick bench jacket that kept the critics who, irrelevantly, had questioned his choice of attire at Carrow Road on Sunday guessing. Whether or not he had discarded the grey sweater this time, he certainly needed his team to be smarter.
To that end he made three changes from the side that had hung on at Norwich: Lucas Torreira had finished that game well so replaced Matteo Guendouzi, while the selections of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Héctor Bellerín for Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers were unsurprising.
The low-key nature of the opening stages was more noteworthy. Ljungberg was made to feel perfectly welcome but there was not quite a hero’s reception; nor was there anything approaching a full house, although there was more life inside the Emirates than for Unai Emery’s last rites against Eintracht Frankfurt seven days earlier.
And it was a homecoming when Steve Bruce was appointed Newcastle manager but, in a different way, this was a happy return to where it all began for him.
Twenty-one years after his managerial career commenced at Bramall Lane Bruce inflicted a first defeat since September on his former club Sheffield United to continue Newcastle’s renaissance. They are now 11th which, after Bruce’s traumatic first few weeks, feels like dizzying heights.
If this was a case of pilfering the points, with Sheffield United dominating much of the match, goalkeeper Martin Dubravka outstanding and Jonjo Shelvey’s clinching goal controversial, Newcastle nonetheless had much to savour.
Defenders have proved their best form of attack this season but, with Allan Saint-Maximin scoring Newcastle’s first goal and Andy Carroll setting up the second, their forwards finally contributed.
Two Uniteds have more in common than just the suffix. Each is managed by a lifelong fan and Chris Wilder and Steve Bruce turned to talismanic locals as they altered their attacks.
Wilder gave his captain, Billy Sharp, a belated first Premier League start – at 33 he became the oldest English outfield player to make a full debut in the division since 2007 – while Bruce sprang a surprise by bringing in Carroll. It was 3,264 days and the best part of nine years since his previous start for his hometown club, a few weeks before his £35m move to Liverpool.
Arsenal 1 – 2 Brighton
Sheff United 0 – 2 Newcastle
AFN crisis: You can’t be autonomous, Ministry cautions faction
The Ministry of Youth and Sports has said the Athletic Federation of Nigeria cannot declare itself independent, insisting it has statutory responsibilities to supervise over all sporting association including the AFN.
The AFN, on Wednesday, at an Extra-ordinary Congress in Awka, Anambra, declared its autonomous from government, saying its action was backed by the statutes of the World Athletics.
The Awka Congress provided a new twist to the crisis rocking the federation after the AFN President Ibrahim Gusau, who had earlier been purportedly suspended by a faction of the board, superintended over the General Assembly Meeting.
Seven members of the board had on Tuesday met in Abuja where they announced the suspension of Gusau for misappropriation of funds and abuse of power. It also set up a probe panel to investigate the culpability of the embattled administrator.
However, in a dramatic twist to the development, a day after his suspension, Gusua led the Congress to declare the federation autonomous of government.
In a release made available to New Telegraph and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Olusade Adesola, the ministry said it approved the decision of the AFN board which suspended Gusau and advised the embattled administrator to cooperate with the investigative panel.
It said that the Abuja meeting was duly convened and its decision is binding on the federation.
The sports ministry also insisted that the AFN must comply with the rules which puts it and its operations under the supervision of the ministry.
“Following from the above, the Ministry cautions the erstwhile President to subject himself to the outcome of the proceedings. We also encourage the Board to continue to carry out the affairs of the Federation in accordance with extant rules and regulations.
“The FMYSD hereby reinstates that it has statutory responsibilities for the formulation, supervision, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes on Sports administration in the country.
“In the discharge of these responsibilities, the Ministry through the 38 National Sports Federations under its supervision ensures the compliance with laid down Rules and Regulations of the Code of Governance, which the constitution of the National Sports Federations recognizes.”
Pinnick blasts Rohr for publicly demanding for salary
Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick has criticized Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr for publicly demanding for his salary.
The football administrator denied that the Nigerian Federation is owing the Franco-German despite claims he is being owed salary for three months.
Rohr’s public request has led to the Nigerian Federation issuing him a query over his utterances.
Pinnick said : ”We don’t owe you, you cannot come out to say that we are owning you salary. We pay you, an employee, and you must respect the employer because we pay you salary religiously.
”If they pay you, you don’t come out to say they pay you. There are some things you don’t say.”
Rohr has a contract with the Nigeria Football Federation until June 2020 and can begin discussing with interested clubs or countries next month if his contract is not extended.
The former Bayern Munich defender reportedly earns approximately $50,000 every month as coach of the Super Eagles.
Rohr unveils plans for Eagles’ next friendly game
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, has revealed his plan to include new players to play in next friendly game.
The manager, believed with the new plans Nigeria will experience skyrocket changes in their gameplay and style.
According to the 66-years-old, he expect the request should be done for the Super Eagles upcoming international friendly match during the international windows of 2020.
“With the next FIFA window, we will be in the qualifiers for the (2022) World Cup, so it will not be the moment to try new things with players we have never seen before,” Rohr said on Brilla FM.
He further stated, “You never know what can happen, we will see because I think before the FIFA [World Cup] qualifiers, we would have perhaps a friendly, this is the moment to test new players.”
Curtain falls on Senforce Insurance Tennis Masters
Today is the final day of tennis hostilities as the ongoing first edition of Senforce Insurance Brokers Tennis Masters comes to an end at the Ikoyi Club 1938 in Lagos.
The tennis competition began on Monday and it is staged for the top eight players in the club as part of year-ending events for the tennis section led by Bimbo Okubena.
After the round robin prelims, Nishant Abbi, Gbenga Familoni, Labisi Abayomi and Ezomo Imokhuede were the last four players in Group A of the singles while Sesan Dada, Emeka Azinge, Bola Ayorinde and Charles Mozie emerged from Group B.
Number one seed, Azinge and second seed, Dada are some of the smashers to watch out for as final round of games began last night to precede today’s Grand Finale.
Tennis Section Chairman, Bimbo Okubena, said the tournament was explosive from the very first day.
“There is no easy game because it is an event meant for the top players in the club. We have had so much fun in the past few days and I believe the final will be very entertaining as well,”Okubena said.
Everton boss slams Iwobi, teammates
Everton manager Marco Silva has criticized the display of Alex Iwobi and his club teammates following Wednesday’s 5-2 thrashing against Liverpool in a Premier League clash at Anfield.
Iwobi and his teammates went into the 235th merseyside derby against local rivals Liverpool following their poor run of results which has seen them pickup just four wins from 14 games.
The Toffees however could not cope with the intensity of Jürgen Klopp’s side as the 5-2 loss saw them drop into the relegation zone, thereby piling more pressure on Silva.
The under-fire Portuguese coach didn’t hide his frustration, hence,labelling his players not good enough after the loss.
“We cannot concede goals in the way we conceded. The way we conceded was not good enough, we should be more brave,”
“It is really tough for us to be in the relegation zone but if you are there you are making the same mistakes. I’m not here to talk about the fight of the players, our opponent was more brave than us. We should do better, of course, we were not good enough.”
“We are making some mistakes which put us under big, big pressure. The type of mistakes we are making is because the players are playing under big pressure because of the position in the table.
“They are making some mistakes that are not normal for the level we are.”
Landmark book on Super Eagles out
The long anticipated book on Nigeria’s lead sports brand, the Super Eagles, will be available to the public later this month.
The book titled: “Super Eagles @70…Soaring on the Wings”, is written by Kunle Solaja and it is endorsed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) which also acquired the title rights.
The book is a compendium and is written in lucid and infographic manner offering virtually every information that a football follower, researcher or reader may desire about the Nigeria’s national football team since its inception through the composition of the famed “UK Tourists” in 1949.
The book expectedly traced the history of the team from the days of UK Tourists through the Red Devils, to the Green Eagles and then to Super Eagles. It is a literary celebration of 70 years of the Nigeria’s senior football squad.
The book at the same time celebrates 60 years of the nation’s supreme football –governing body, the Nigeria Football Federation’s affiliation with the continental body, CAF and the world body, FIFA in 1959.
ValueJet plans big for Remo Ultra-Marathon
The historic city of Sagamu will be agog this weekend as top athletes from across the world converge to participate in the maiden edition of the Value Jet Ultra Modern race .
Speaking ahead of the race, ValueJet Head of Operations Mrs Yewande Cole, said the race is one of the company’s numerous ways to create bond among Nigerians and the world at large. “The Ultra-Marathon is first of its kind in Africa and we are elated that our company is responsible for bringing youths together to harness their talents. I’m confident that we all are in for a good time on Saturday.
“Our chairman, Kunle Soname, is a sports inclined personality who is very passionate about the race, so participants and fans alike would witness a world class event.”
On whether the race would be sustained, she assured that adequate plans are in place to stage the marathon yearly.
The winners of the 50km ultra-race in both foreign and local categories will pocket 2,000 dollars, while the second and the third placed runners will get 1,500 dollars and 1,000 dollars respectively.
For the Nigerian local 5km run, the winner will receive N500,000, runner-up N300,00,00, while the second runner-up will take home N150,000.
Meanwhile, rave of the moment and hip hop artiste Afeez Fashola, a.k.a. “Naira Marley” along with other top music artistes will perform live at the 50km race in Sagamu.
According to the Project Director, Seyi Johnson, Naira Marley would perform alongside the winner of “City People Music Award” Slimcase.
About 4,000 athletes from 35 countries are expected to participate in the 50km road race which is reputably the largest in the series.
Johnson, said Naira Marley, Slimcase, CD Q and others would spice up the event as part of the side attraction at the Sagamu International Stadium.
“The marathon will be spiced up with lots of entertainments because we don’t want it to be boring.
“Artistes such as Naira Marley, Slimcase, CD Q and others will be performing and everybody will be greatly entertained because we are expecting a full house.
“The race will be plug and play starting from the stadium with the marathoners rounding the route five times.
“We are look forward to seeing athletes conquer the 50km race because the route is different from what we are used to” he concluded.
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