Archive for April, 2013
At the start of the season, a certain Dumnodi Okonta in lagos state threw a jab at Port Harcourt based NPFL clubs. He talked of how both Port Harcourt sides, Sharks and Dolphins who got the sum of N600m each for a season should be performing better than every other club in the league. For no other club side in the league he said got such money to run its affairs.
Of course I laughed at his statement. I laughed in efik, I laughed in tiv, I laughed in esan and I even laughed in fulfude. What made my laugh all the more laughable was that I didn’t understand and still don’t understand those languages. That I dare say was how much I was moved by his statement. ‘Silly guy’ I thought at that moment. Those studio lights he gets to face too often must be affecting his brain I…
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After all said and bit, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was slapped with a 10-match ban by the English FA for his Hannibal moment on Branislav Ivanovic last weekend and according to the FA’s statement, Suarez, who has decided not to appeal the ban (to avoid further fuss me thinks), pretty much made the much debated ban to be that lengthy by his own doing.
In their statement, the FA, among various other points, made it clear that previous incidents involving the player hadn’t been considered when deciding the severity of this punishment and that since biting was alien to football, along with the fact that by disputing their first statement saying a standard three-match violent conduct ban would “clearly be insufficient” for his bite, he (Suarez) had failed to fully grasp the seriousness of the matter at hand hence, the length of his latest football sabbatical being 10 matches.
Meanwhile seeing as biting, contrary to the FA’s statement, is more ‘human’ than alien to football thanks to previous incidents by Suarez as well as Jermain Defoe on Javier Mascherano, not to mention a few other bizarre happenings on the field such as Cantona’s kung-fu kick of a Crystal Palace fan and Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt to the chest of Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup, there indeed – as shown above – were many instances the FA could have drawn some inspiration from before butchering Suarez with that ban.
It thus leaves a question mark on the justifications the FA felt it had in handing Suarez the ban for biting, while same player got two games less for racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011, or John Terry who got a further four games less as ban along with a fine of £220,000 for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand… or the instance of Joey Barton who got a 12-match ban for his violent conduct (no biting) in a match against Manchester City.
The FA on one hand is right in wanting to make crystal clear the “seriousness” of Suarez’s Sunday bite, the 10-match ban on the other hand mostly equally, if not more so, sends out a crystal clear message about the FA being a committee of clowns who hand down punishments as it suits the mood or as the tea/coffee tastes on the day.
As it is now, tackling a player and having to be separated from another (Barton on Agüero and Tevez) is more serious than (a certain extreme of) biting ala Suarez which in turn is a more serious offence than (a certain extreme of) racism ala Suarez as well as (another, apparently less-extreme degree of) racism ala Terry and so on.
Terry on his part was back in the ever tinkered Chelsea starting line-up and missed a late, how-did-that-not-go-in chance in Switzerland though a 94th minute David Luiz freekick – the last kick of the match in fact – gave the Blues a 2-1 win at FC Basel in the first leg of a Europa League semi-final, with Fernabahce beating Benfica by a lone goal in the other semi-final first leg match.
It was Basel’s first home loss after nine European matches just as it was Chelsea’s first away win after suffering four losses in their last five away matches in Europe, setting up the return leg nicely for them as they look to inversely follow in FC Porto’s steps by winning both major European club competitions in successive years.
So much for the time of ridicule endured when they crashed out of the Champions League at the group stage eh? Now it is the hierarchy of Spanish football suffering the embarrassment in the Champions League following the first leg semi-final matches played on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Definitely Bayern Munich were going to be tough opposition for Barcelona on Tuesday night, but quantum physics tough? It was shocking to watch as the Bavarians ripped the Catalans apart with a 4-0 humbling. It was heartwarming and fun to watch as well.
Indeed Bayern got away with favourable decisions in the goals scored by Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, who by the way played by far his best match this season on the night, it was clear Bayern deserved the win and dare I say the margin of it.
What with the manner Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez neutralised the ‘threat’ of Lionel Messi’s presence and rendered Andres Iniesta anonymous, allowing Thomas Müller, Franck Ribery and Robben to wreck the havoc they brought upon the feeble Barça backline.
But not to be outdone, following a similarly high tempo first half display, Borussia Dortmund raised their game several levels higher and scored three second half goals as well on their to scoring four goals against Real Madrid to complete an 8-1 aggregate win for the Bundesliga over La Liga… perhaps initiating a power shift as well.
Apart from the mistake that led to Real’s away goal, Dortmund never looked inferior to a vastly more experienced and expensive Real side. Gundogan was imperious in midfield while Robert Lewandowski showed great technique and composure in the open-play goals he scored; with the third being my favourite.
It was fitting that someone else took the headlines, a day after Dortmund confirmed that Mario Götze; the nucleus of Dortmund’s trinity, will join Bayern next season. Even Marco Reus’ game was exceptional on Wednesday night and there was little to show Götze’s exit would be a deep blow.
Dortmund have always produced the good players, Shinji Kagawa hasn’t been missed, neither was Tomas Rosicky and I reckon Götze’s imminent exit would either bring a new name to the spotlight or see a slight change in formation that will get Nuri Sahin fully back in the Dortmund fold… or Christian Eriksen – who has been linked to Dortmund – could come in from Ajax as a replacement, and that would be an exciting transfer if it happens.
Away from the European drama, action resumed in the Nigeria Professional Football League with defending champions Kano Pillars maintaining its hold of top spot despite a second successive goalless draw, this time at home to Heartland.
With 16 points, Pillars now lead Rangers and Nasarawa United by two points after both lost their respective matches and the opportunity to go top of the league. Rangers fell 2-1 at Lobi Stars that is now in seventh place while Nasarawa fell to a 3-0 loss at Dolphins.
In other matches, Bayelsa United is now fourth on 13 points after a lone goal win over Sunshine Stars while Kwara United followed up its draw at Enyimba with a 2-0 win at home to Nembe City, rising to sixth with 12 points, behind Shooting Stars on goal difference.
Shooting Stars lost 2-0 at El-Kanemi Warriors, Enyimba lost by a lone goal at Gombe United, Kaduna United and Warri Wolves played a 1-1 draw in Kaduna as did Wikki Tourists against Sharks of Port-Harcourt in Bauchi.
Further up north on the continent, Nigeria’s U17 national team have reached the final of the African U17 Championship in Morocco following a 4-2 win over Tunisia on Wednesday with Isaac Success scoring a brace.
Those goals put him on seven goals in the lead for the golden boot award, with teammate Kelechi Iheanacho right behind him with five goals scored so far. The free scoring Golden Eaglets will face their Ivorian counterparts in Saturday’s final in a repeat of their group stage match which the Ivorians somewhat surprisingly won by a lone goal.
That match is one of many exciting ones to look forward to this weekend, with PSG on the verge of winning the Ligue Un title and needing a win at Evian on Sunday to do so. Problem is, it was Evian that recently knocked PSG out of the Coupe de France at the semi-final stage on penalties.
Elsewhere, Juventus visit Torino in a Turin derby while Real visit Atletico Madrid on Saturday in another derby. Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out of that encounter with a leg injury with Jose Mourinho’s assistant hoping the Portuguese ace recovers in time for next Tuesday’s return leg against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
In the Premier League, Arsenal players will form a guard of honour for former striker Robin van Persie and his Manchester United teammates who visit the Emirates on Sunday after winning the league title on Monday.
In tennis, Rafael Nadal came through two matches in one day to make it 37 consecutive wins at the Barcelona Open and set up a semi-final with Milos Raionic who also won two matches on Friday to reach the last four.
Nadal, whose run of 46 consecutive matches and eight titles won was ended by Novak Djokovic in the final of the Monte Carlo masters last week, is looking to win his eighth Barcelona Open title having won every edition since 2005, missing the 2010 competition due to fatigue.
No such thing for former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner who keeps opening old sores in the FIFA’s hierarchy, this time revealing how he’d been given $6m in exchange of winning Sepp Blatter the presidency back in 1998.
Running against then UEFA President Lennart Johansson, Warner claims he was personally handed a $6m grant to build the centre of excellence on land owned by him in exchange for votes that would win Blatter the election.
Money exchanged, Warner says he delivered 30 votes for Blatter, who according to him was João Havelange’s chosen successor. The poll finished with Johansson getting 80 votes while Blatter got 111; 31 votes more.
Having resigned from FIFA after some allegations of corruption were brought against him, Warner has since tried opening a few worm cans that would bring a few names down, especially Blatter. Where this latest episode leads, we await.
For now, do have a blessed weekend. Mine already is, today especially.
Four of the six nominees for this season’s PFA Player of the Year award were well involved in the Premier League over the weekend, on Sunday to be exact, and duly enhanced their status as the league’s elite footballers.
First out was Tottenham Hotspurs’ wing marshall Gareth Bale, returning from a two-week ankle injury lay-off in a match against Manchester City. And the lay-off told in an anonymous first half from the Welshman as City went into the break a goal up.
Things dramatically turned in Spurs’ favour following the introduction of Jermain Defoe and Tom Huddlestone in the second half, with Clint Dempsey getting on the end of an inside-foot cross in from Bale to level scores.
Defoe then found the net for the first time this year to put Spurs ahead minutes later before, rather surprisingly based on his display before the equaliser, Bale chipped over an onrushing Joe Hart to silence a few critics and seal a 3-1 win for the home side.
The win keeps Spurs right in the mix in the three-team race for the two remaining Champions League spots on the league table while also ensuring a win tonight for Manchester United at home to Aston Villa would seal a 20th league title for the Red Devils that have Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie nominated for the POTY award.
Spurs meanwhile remained in fifth place, the north Londoners having gone level on 61 points with Chelsea that visited Liverpool later on Sunday looking to regain third spot from Arsenal that had gone two points clear of both following a below-par lone goal win at London rivals Fulham on Saturday.
Chelsea’s visit of Anfield saw Rafael Benitez face the club he had won the Champions League with in 2005. And after a boisterous start from the Reds, it was the Blues that took the lead when Oscar headed home a Juan Mata corner kick. That kick was the latter’s 33rd assist in all competitions this season, showing just why he is one of two Chelsea players nominated for the POTY award.
The other, Eden Hazard was also impressive with his neat footwork and technical ability, putting Chelsea back in front in the second half from the penalty spot soon after former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge had equalised minutes into the second half off a ball in from Luis Suarez.
Liverpool’s Uruguayan, nominated for the POTY as well, had an eventful afternoon that saw him set up Sturridge’s goal, handle in the area to concede the penalty dispatched by Hazard minutes later, before bizarrely making Branislav Ivanovic’s arm into a snack and then dramatically heading a 97th minute equaliser for the Reds to deny Chelsea a return to third spot.
The Blues, now a point behind Arsenal, will strongly feel Suarez shouldn’t have been on the field to head home that stoppage time sucker punch after biting Ivanovic, an action that could earn the Liverpool forward a season ending ban from the league’s disciplinary board and almost certainly cost him the good odds of being named POTY too.
Only recently the Uruguayan FA felt the player was been castigated by, most of all, the English FA. Not sure how they’ll react to a repertoire that’s seen biting added to a cocktail of antics which include diving, ball handling… alleged racism.
Suarez has apologised for his “inexcusable behaviour” on Sunday but has been fined by his club and now, charged by the FA and faces a lengthy ban after the FA commented that a three-match ban – the usual punishment for violent conduct – is “clearly insufficient in these circumstances”.
He previously has been banned seven matches for biting (yes, not his first) a PSV Eindhoven player during his Ajax days before getting eight matches for his ‘words’ to Patrice Evra. Skillful player, reckless sportsman, apologetic 26 year old… Luis Suarez.
Not so far at the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich continue being reckless to opponents despite wrapping a 23rd league title two weeks ago, handing a 6-1 thrashing to Hannover 96, with a second string team, in front of the Hannover fans.
Second string implies the Bavarians left Philip Lahm on the bench through the match, substituted Thomas Müller and Franck Ribery at half time for Arjen Robben and Xherdan Shaqiri and left Mario Mandzukic, Bastien Schwensteiger and Dante from the match-day squad altogether.
Coupled with scoring 18 goals in its last four matches, a 20-point gap with a +75 goal difference atop the Bundesliga and a run of winning its last eight matches and 19 of its last 20 matches in all competitions, Bayern head into Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg at home to Barcelona in just the form to face Barcelona.
The Catalans may have struggled to a lone goal win at home to Levante in La Liga but Lionel Messi’s side still hold a 13 point gap atop the Spanish top division with a +66 goal difference, but have lost three and drawn four of its last 13 matches in all competitions. Maybe, just maybe, Bayern will prove to be a problem too quantum physics to solve.
It may not be anywhere near that magnitude, but Enugu Rangers find themselves in a bit of a situation after being held to a goalless draw at home by Angolan side Recreativo do Libolo in a CAF Champions League final qualifying round first leg encounter.
Nigeria’s only remaining representative in continental football were joined by Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Zamalek in the bit of a situation corner after both sides were held to 1-1 draws while four time winners TP Mazembe must overcome a 3-1 deficit against South Africa’s Orlando Pirates in order to make the group stages.
In tennis, world number one Novak Djokovic won his first Monte Carlo Masters title with a straight sets defeat of Rafael Nadal, the latter’s first defeat at the Principality in nine years… a streak that earned him nine titles and 46 consecutive wins there.
One not about to relinquish his crown is German driver Sebastien Vettel who won the Bahrain Grand Prix for a second year running and open a 10-point lead on top of the drivers’ championship table as he races towards a fourth successive Formula 1 title.
With a seeming undisputable champion, which could make for a boring sport, Formula 1 this season has had its dramatic moments especially when Vettel and Redbull teammate Mark Webber went tyre to tyre two races ago in Malaysia, not to mention Nico Rosberg forcibly doing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton a favour.
Over the weekend, it was the turn of McLaren teammates Jenson Button and Sergio Perez to have a go. With both going turbo for fifth spot during the race, Perez serged into Jenson’s button from the rear and soon after, bumped wheels with the Briton much to Button’s initial displeasure.
Unlike the Vettel-Webber tangle, little animosity came about from the latest episode from Button and Perez. Worse still, Perez finished in sixth place while Button dropped all the way down to 10th. Would be interesting to see Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa get in the tangle next sometime soon.
For now, there’s the Champions League semi-final matches in Germany on Tuesdsy and Wednesday followed by the Europa League semis between Basel and Chelsea, and Fernabahce against Benfica on Thursday, with the week culminating at the Emirates where Arsenal could perform a guard of honour for arch-rivals Manchester United that should wrap up the Premier League title win tonight at home to Aston Villa.
Have a hostile free week and enjoy a chronicle of previous ‘sporting’ bites.
Prof. of life!
Ok, let’s get serious here. A popular professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business replied to a student’s email in a way that is part jerkface but mostly, part sage life advice. Deadspin reports that a student walked into the 1st day of class an hour late and the professor told her to leave & come back to the next class. In the comments section, most people were surprised to find themselves siding with the professor, citing topics like the rudeness of interrupting 80 people who pay full tuition to the foolishness of “shopping” 3 classes in the same time slot. The professor actually XXXX’d out the student’s name and emailed it to all of his students! See below.. what’s your take on this?
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 7:15:11 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback
I would like to discuss a matter with…
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In some cases where one is determined (or desperate) to get a romantic relationship started (or keep an already existing one going) with that one older person, “age is nothing but a number” gets uttered. For Taribo West however, age became an unwanted topic.
The former Nigerian international, among a few (like Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic) to have played for both Milan clubs, was commented on (whatever for) by a former Partizan Belgrade President. And indeed Zarko Zecevic was enthusing about erstwhile Pastor Taribo’s time at Belgrade, stating that West played well during his stint there.
Problem is, Zecevic indicated in his compliment that West was a good dozen years older than he claimed to be when he joined the club in 2002, saying the former defender was actually 40 years old rather than the 28 he claimed to be. Meaning Taribo will be 51 years old now rather than 39 as found when you ask Google or check his wikipedia page.
Apart from (perhaps) inadvertently and innocently staining what was intended to be complimetary remarks, Zecevic by so saying has given the suspicion on the eligibility of a number of Nigeria’s historic Atlanta 96 winning team another attempt at resurrection.
Taribo has debunked the comments by Zecevic, saying “I have my record in the professional League with Obanta United since the 1990’s and all along, I have been keeping with my true age.” while also pondering why it is now such matter has been raised, almost a decade after he left the club.
Age falsification has been a menace in Nigerian sports, so much it has become banter among football lovers in the country, especially when the male and female junior national football teams participate in international competitions.
For some time, another source of banter, via his tweets, has been English midfielder Joey Barton who is on loan at Olympique Marseille from Queens Park Rangers and has tweeted certain (un)popular opinions about the end of his tumultuous time at Newcastle United, matters involving him at QPR, players called up or otherwise to the English national team and, among others, Justin Bieber.
However, his tweet in which he referred to Thiago Silva – of archrivals Paris Saint Germain – as an overweight ladyboy has landed the very opinionated Barton in some trouble, with PSG threatening to take legal action against the player and his club while the French Football Federation ethics committee will now look into the matter with a view to suspending Barton from competitive matches for the comments.
Barton and l’OM have since released a statement, apologising to PSG (which would be a rather humbling experience for l’OM) and to the Brazilian defender for the comments made soon after PSG’s dramatic 2-2 draw at home to Barcelona in a UEFA Champions League first leg quarterfinal match.
Despite starting the match on Tuesday night in rampaging manner and being denied a goal by the post, PSG fell behind some minutes to half time when a delightful Dani Alves pass over the defence found none other than Lionel Messi.
The drama came in a Messi-less second half when PSG equalised midway through the second half via a Zlatan rebound with Zlatan clearly offside. Xavi would then put Barça back in front from the penalty spot with a minute left in normal time, only for Victor Valdes to (amusingly) fail in keeping out a rather tame Blaise Matuidi shot four minutes into stoppage time.
Tuesday night’s other encounter saw David Alaba* score the competition’s second fastest goal ever – at 25.02 seconds – as Bayern Munich once again put up an efficient performance in a comfortable 2-0 win over Juventus at the Allianz Arena.
Real Madrid put up an even more precisive display on Wednesday
night in easing to a 3-0 win over Galatasaray at the Bernabeu, while elsewhere in Spain, Borussia Dortmund showed just how a team can be wasteful in front of goal in its goalless draw at Malaga.
Swiss side FC Basel showed a bit of Real Madrid and Dortmund on Thursday night in a Europa League quarterfinal clash at Tottenham Hotspur, racing to a 2-0 lead and missing further chances as Spurs fought back to claim a costly 2-2 draw.
Andre Villas-Boas had described his players as being “superior” compared to the Basel side ahead of that match, yet it was Basel that looked the likelier of both sides to win on the night. A bad night was made worse for AVB and Spurs when star player Gareth Bale was stretchered off in the closing stages with an ankle injury.
AVB previously had stated (after beating Inter Milan 3-0 in the first leg at the round of 16 stage) that the club didn’t need to prove it could play well without the Welsh winger in the team. Now with Bale out for two weeks and the return leg at Basel sandwiched between matches against Everton and Chelsea as they battle to finish in the Premier League’s top four coming up, AVB will hope his earlier assertion hasn’t met with Karma.
Chelsea and Arsenal will be out to take advantage of any Spurs slip-up at Goodison Park on Sunday, with Chelsea; fresh off a Juan Mata inspired, Fernando Torres-scoring 3-1 win over Rubin Kazan, hosting Sunderland on Sunday as well in Paolo di Canio’s first match as the visitors’ manager, while Arsenal visit West Brom on Saturday where a win will put the Gunners in the top four for 24 hours at least.
Newcastle United, that lost 3-1 at Benfica in the Europa League after taking the lead in Lisbon, welcome Fulham to St. James’ while Europa League chasing Liverpool host West Ham United. But the biggest match comes up on Monday night when both Manchester clubs clash at Old Trafford.
A win for United will put the Red Devils one match from a 20th league title but City, bolstered by Yaya Toure signing a four-year contract extension on Thursday, will be out to put the celebrations on hold for a little longer.
Elsewhere this weekend, Bayern Munich will clinch a 23rd Bundesliga title with a win against Eintracht Frankfurt, regardless of other results, while in Italy, Spain and France, Juventus, Barcelona and PSG still have a little way to go before clinching their respective domestic league titles.
Juventus face a relatively easy (on paper) match at home to Pescara in the Serie A on Saturday while Barcelona host Real Mallorca also on Saturday, with PSG facing a tricky trip to Rennes on Saturday too.
Away from the top, the Rome derby between Lazio and Roma on Monday night should make for interesting viewing, with both sides chasing a top five finish which guarantees at least a spot in next season’s Europa League. Another is Wigan Athletic’s trip to Loftus Road to face QPR in a relegation battle.
In Africa, Nigerian champions Kano Pillars take a healthy 4-1 lead to their first round second leg CAF Champions League match at Leopards on Saturday, with Rangers hosting Vital’O on Sunday in Enugu following a goalless first leg.
Naze Millionaires Heartland take a slender 2-1 lead to their second leg CAF Confederations Cup first round tie at US Bitam while Lobi Stars held a 3-1 lead against Muculmana in their first round match. Unfortunately, the Makurdi based side got crushed 7-1 in Mozambique on Friday night.
The Rome derby is the match I’m most looking forward to this ‘weekend’. Whichever match is your choice, hope you enjoy it, as well as the rest of your weekend. Cheers.
Easter greetings to you as the long weekend snails to an end, with the unpleasantly pleasant day of April Fools’ being its last day. Will there be pranks in the following paragraphs? Having supported Arsenal for the better part of the last 15 years going on 16 and lived through Wenger’s press conferences all that time… “I don’t want to comment on speculation.”
The Arsenal manager had little need for evasive answers however, following the club’s 4-1 win over relegation threatened Reading on Saturday in Nigel Adkins first match as Reading manager, having lost 6-1 to Arsenal earlier this season while at Southampton.
The result took the Gunners within two points of fourth place on the Premier League table; a spot currently occupied by Chelsea that was beaten 2-1 at Southampton. Chelsea’s loss favoured all concerned at north London; a bit to every gooners’ dismay though, as Tottenham Hotspur went up to third place, two points ahead of Chelsea, with a 2-1 win at a Swansea City side that look like it can’t be bothered to having a go in matches ever since claiming the League Cup title.
Knew such could happen after Swans manager Michael Laudrup felt after that League Cup win that getting 10 points from their last 10 matches/30 points would be alright. Swansea’s seeming nonchalance has now ‘helped’ both north London clubs in the club’s last two league matches; very much to every Chelsea fan’s disappointment I imagine.
With the yet-to-be-relieved interim manager Rafael Benitez tinkering his team; most notably leaving out Juan Mata (who officially was ill), one may want to blame the loss at the coast on the Blues having an eye on tonight’s FA Cup quarterfinal replay at home to Manchester United.
However, the Red Devils, also with an eye on tonight’s tie, had manager Sir Alex Ferguson shuffling the team just a bit in the early kick-off at Sunderland and still coming away with a lone goal win that, for a few hours opened an 18 point gap at the top. Manchester City later restored that gap to 15 points with a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle United.
For Sunderland, the loss led to the sacking of Martin O’Neill who in no time was replaced Sunday night with the appointment of charismatic, former West Ham United player and more recently former Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio, handed the task of keeping Sunderland in the top flight with eight matches to play.
The Italian manager, who only has Swindon on his managerial CV though did lead them to League One by winning League Two last season, quit the lower league club earlier last month in quite dramatic circumstances and one would expect some more of that to come up now at Sunderland… drama trailed Di Canio in his playing days and spectacularly so (apparently) in his first managerial job.
While awaiting that, Sharks of Port-Harcourt caused a bit of a stir when it unveiled now former manager of Sunshine Stars, Gbenga Ogunbote, as its Technical Adviser during the halftime break of its goalless draw with city rivals Dolphins in a Nigeria Professional Football League match.
First, the unveiling couldn’t have been done before or after the match? Compared however to the fact that Ogunbote will only sign an agreement on Tuesday (rather than a proper contract, long story), the unusual halftime unveiling takes a slightly more trivial position in the whole charade reminiscent of former TA Austin Eguavoen’s arrival at the club.
One also must question the motivation behind Ogunbote leaving a Sunshine team he led to the last four of last season’s CAF Champions League (albeit with fortune’s favour), a team that hasn’t lost its opening four league matches and lies in fifth place with a game in hand, for a club that currently is second from bottom following a woeful start to the campaign.
At the other, brighter, top end of the table, champions Kano Pillars remain in top spot after a 3-2 win at ABS in Ilorin; its second away win this season. Pillars now have 12 points from five matches, a point ahead of Rangers that needed two goals in the closing 10 minutes to get a 3-1 win at home to Kwara United.
Elsewhere, Shooting Stars raced to a three goal lead but in the end held on for a 3-2 win over Wikki Tourists and rise to third place on nine points, with Akwa United now fourth also on nine points courtesy of a 3-0 win over Bayelsa United.
Other results saw Warri Wolves claim a point in a goalless draw at Enyimba despite playing a better part of the last half hour there with 10 men, Heartland thrashed Gombe United 4-0 to rise into the top half of the league, as did Nembe City now in 10th place after a 2-1 win over bottom side El-Kanemi Warriors while the match between Sunshine Stars and Lobi Stars was postponed due to the latter’s continental engagement this week.
Going further north on the continent, the young Pharaohs of Egypt won the Africa Youth Championship in Algeria 5-4 on penalties, as the final match against Ghana on Saturday ended 1-1 after regular and extra time. Nigeria last Friday had finished third with a 2-1 win over Mali in the third place play-off.
Expectedly, the AYC’s Best 11 is dominated by Egypt that had five of their players named, including Saleh Gomaa who was also named Player of the Tournament. Abduljaleel Ajagun was the only Nigerian player on the list, strangely, as golden boot winner Aminu Umar; who finished with seven goals, was left out.
The Flying Eagles meanwhile will face Portugal, South Korea and Cuba in Group B of the World Youth Championship. Egypt find themselves in Group E with England, Chile and Iraq while Mali will face Mexico, Greece and Paraguay in Group D. Ghana on their part will come up against France, Spain and the United States in what potentially is the group of death at the WYC holding later this year in Turkey from June.
Well before then, Turkish giants Galatasaray visit Spanish giants Real Madrid in a first leg quarterfinal UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday night, with Madrid heading into that encounter on a bit of a low after only managing a 1-1 draw at Real Zaragoza in a Primera Liga match.
That result meant Jose Mourinho’s side remain 13 points off the pace in La Liga having failed to take advantage of Barcelona being held to a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo, a match that saw Lionel Messi score his 43rd league goal and create a record of scoring in 19 consecutive league matches, as well as joining Cristiano Ronaldo as a player to have scored against every other team in that league. Those two are a pleasant scare with their footballing prowess.
Elsewhere in the major European leagues, Bayern Munich is now a match from claiming the Bundesliga title after spelling out the opponent’s name, with two to spare, in a scary and scarring 9-2 rout of S.V. Hamburg (okay, the nine letters are now accounted for).
Scarier was the fact that it was third choice striker Claudio Pizarro that led the massacre with four goals. And the message will surely have been crystal to Italian champions Juventus that visit the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night in another Champions League quarterfinal encounter.
Juve prepared for that with a 2-1 Derby d’Italia win at Inter Milan to remain nine points clear of second placed Napoli that won 5-3 in a thrilling match at Torino, and a further two points ahead of AC Milan that claimed a lone goal win at Chievo Verona.
As if that wasn’t an exciting enough match-up to look forward to, Ligue Un leaders Paris Saint Germain; with an extra day’s rest and home advantage, welcome Barcelona to the Parc Des Princes in Tuesday night’s other quarterfinal match-up.
Finally in Tennis, Andy Murray continued his ascendency by replacing Roger Federer as the world number two player after capturing the Sony Open title with a 2-6 6-4 7-6 win over David Ferrer. Ferrer himself rose to fourth on the rankings to replace Spanish compatriot Rafael Nadal who now occupies fifth place.
The new rankings suggest the coming French and Wimbledon Open will be one of the most competitive grand slams held in recent times, barring injuries, with the top five players heading to them in good form along with the likes of Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych. In the female section, Serena Williams claimed a sixth Miami title win courtesy of a straight sets defeat of Maria Sharapova.
With that, it’s a wrap here. There’s the FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge tonight as well as a chance for QPR to come within five points of safety in the Premier League match at Fulham to look forward to.
Then Champions League quarterfinal matches on Tuesday and Wednesday followed quarterfinal matches in the Europa League on Thursday mean it’s an eventful start to the month of April and indeed the second quarter of 2013.
Have a great week ahead and hey, don’t get fooled out there.