Archive for category Sports
Ahead of the men’s season ending ATP Tour Finals serving off next week in London, the women’s curtain call championship served off in Istanbul, Turkey during the week.
And despite stating her tiredness following her straight sets win over third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, women’s world number one player Serena Williams has nonetheless reached the semi-final of the season ending WTA Championships.
Playing in the Red Group, Williams overcame German Angelique Kerber in her opening match before going past Radwanska and, with the ‘tiredness’ on her, managed to beat Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-3 in her final group match.
But indeed, the American great has a case to be tired having played all three roundrobin matches in successive days unlike Kvitova, for instance, who had a day off ahead of her loss to Williams.
Czech fifth seed Kvitova can however join Williams in the semis if she defeats Kerber; also in with a chance of joining Williams with a win, in the group’s final match.
Third seed Radwanska on her part is out of the Championship having lost all her three roundrobin matches, and most disappointingly all in straight sets too.
Over in the White Group, fourth seed Li Na heads the group with two wins from two matches following a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Jelena Jankovic. All Na needs is to win a set in her final group match against second seed Viktoria Azarenka to seal qualification.
A straight sets loss would however jeopardise her position greatly, see Azarenka go through to the last four and be joined there by Jankovic, who will qualify if she wins her final group match against already eliminated Sara Errani, regardless of the result from the Azarenka-Na match.
From coloured groups in Istanbul to matters of one race abusing people of a different race. Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has suggested quite a few actions against racism since accusing fans of CSKA Moscow of aiming monkey chants at him during a UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday.
Toure, who wore the captain’s armband which had ‘No to Racism’ printed on it, suggested after the match in Moscow that a lengthy stadium ban could be given to CSKA for the incident and that players of African descent could boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia to drive home the ‘No to Racism’ point.
This way, according to Toure, he hoped that Russia would take responsibility and deal with such “unbelievable” behaviour ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
Interestingly, CSKA in a statement denied any racist chants were made by its fans during the match. ”Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from fans of CSKA.”
”In many occasions, especially during attacks on our goal, fans booed and whistled to put pressure on rival players, but regardless of their race (Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko). Why the Ivorian midfielder took it as all being directed at him is not clear.”
The Russian club even went further, and below the belt if you ask me, to release a statement from Toure’s fellow Ivorian Seydou Doumbia, who plays for CSKA.
”Yes, they’re always noisy in supporting the team, and try to put as much pressure as possible on our opponents, but they wouldn’t ever allow themselves to come out with racist chants. So my Ivory Coast colleague is clearly exaggerating.”
UEFA, which had declared this week a Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) Action Week, will have a disciplinary committee convene next Wednesday on the matter to find if CSKA is guilty of the accusation. A guilty verdict would lead to partial closure of the stadium next Champions League home match.
On the field, CSKA lost 2-1 to City with a Sergio Agüero brace cancelling CSKA’s lead and leaving them third in the group with three points, behind City in second with six points and leaders Bayern Munich with nine maximum points after the Germans eased to a 5-0 win over pointless Victoria Plzen.
Olympique Marseille of France is also pointless after three group matches, losing 2-1 at home to Napoli that joined top placed Arsenal and second placed Borussia Dortmund on six points, with Dortmund getting a 2-1 victory at Arsenal.
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his sixth and seventh goals of this season’s competition in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Juventus, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his third to sixth goals in PSG’s 5-0 demolition of Anderlecht in Brussels and Lionel Messi scored his fourth Champions League goal to help Barcelona come away from AC Milan with a 1-1 draw.
And in some other matches, Chelsea got an impressive 3-0 win at Schalke 04, Diego Costa – called up by Brazil for Nobember friendlies, which pretty much ends Spain’s chance of having him with La Roja – scored twice as Atletico Madrid won by the same score while Wayne Rooney’s effort off the post was lapped in by a Real Sociedad defender to give Manchester United a lone goal win.
The win helped to blow some cool wind at David Moyes and indeed all of Old Trafford following the disappointing draw with Southampton last Saturday and the press conference to announce the autobiography of Sir Alex Ferguson, My Autobiography (dead title) on Tuesday.
Revealing ‘excerpts’ from the book, which became available on Thursday, Sir Alex chronicled his sometimes feisty relationship with Rooney whom he says had been told to mind his business after asking for the club to sign Mesut Özil, who then was at Werder Bremen.
The book also chronicles Robin Judas Persie’s move from Arsenal, with Fergie apologising to the Dutch striker for not keeping his word on remaining at the club beyond last season.
Then there’s Pizzagate after United ended Arsenal’s 49 match unbeaten run, stating he didn’t know to this day who threw the pizza at him. Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas would then like an instagram picture of a pizza posted by Arseblog soon after the conference. So ‘subliminal’.
Fergie also touched on the boot incident with David Beckham whom he accused of making it ”an ambition to be known outside the game”, expressed his spicy view on former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez and reiterated that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is not a top top player and was perplexed as to why he was chosen ahead of Michael Carrick in the England set-up.
Former Man. United captain Roy Keane and his savage tongue, Rooney and his weight issues, Mark Bosnic’s weight issues too, Ruud van Nistelrooij and Rio Ferdinand were also ‘fondly’ mentioned in the book, while Fergie also suggested Michael Owen would’ve had a better career had he joined United instead of Liverpool.
Whether he would or wouldn’t would matter little to nothing to David Moyes, whose Man. United side will hope to build on the win over Sociedad when Stoke City visit on Saturday in a Premier League match.
Top of the table Arsenal kick the weekend off in their shot trip across town to face second from bottom Crystal Palace that parted ways with manager Ian Holloway.
The big match comes up on Sunday when second placed Chelsea host fourth placed Manchester City in the Premier League’s Clash of the Cash, preceded by the TyneWear derby between Sunderland and Newcastle United.
In Germany, second placed Dortmund visit Schalke in the Ruhr derby while leaders Bayern Munich host capital club Hertha Berlin in another Bundesliga match on Saturday.
The clash of the weekend comes from the Camp Nou where Barcelona host Real Madrid in this season’s first El Clasico. Messi will start, CR7 definitely will. Neymar is set for his first Clasico for Barça while Gareth Bale could feature as well having overcome injury problems.
Real Madrid head into that in confident mood, having cut the gap behind Barça to three points last weekend. One loss in the e
last eight Clasicos further boosts La Decima’s confidence ahead of the encounter.
Anticipation of that clash brings this post to a close. On this day, The Alchemist turns 36 today, The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales are remembered at the latter nation, Shaun Wright Phillips turns 32 and musicians Katy Perry, Ciara and Gyptian celebrate their birthdays as well.
Many happy returns to them and all else celebrating. And a pleasant weekend to the rest of us alive by the grace of God. Cheers!
Here I was mellow mocking Shooting Stars of Ibadan early in the week since the Ibadan club faced inevitable relegation from the Premier League, two matches (to end the season) after and alas, Kwara United got relegated as well.
Such was the dramatic nature with which the 2012/13 Nigeria Premier League ended on Sunday, with another Ilorin club ABS FC joining the two in being relegated despite thrashing Nembe City 6-1 in their penultimate match of the season in midweek.
At the brighter end of the table meanwhile, only three points separated the top four finishers, with Kano Pillars winning the league title by a mere point despite losing 2-0 at Lobi Stars on the final day.
Enyimba, that had been put out of title contention in a midweek loss at Sunshine Stars, finished second with 62 points while Bayelsa United finished with 61 points and El-Kanemi Warriors ended in fourth place with 60 points.
Pillars’ title win makes the northern side the first, since Enyimba did 10 years ago, to successfully defend the league title. Both clubs will now be Nigeria’s representatives for next season’s CAF Champions League.
In this season’s Champions League, defending champions Al-Ahly of Egypt will come up against South Africa’s Orlando Pirates, after beating Cameroun’s Coton Sport 7-6 on penalties in Cairo.
Pirates had overcome Esperance in Tunis on aggregate despite drawing their first leg goalless, while Al-Ahly came through on penalties after both legs against Coton Sport of Cameroun ended in 1-1 draws.
Away from the continent but still, mostly, about the continent, Nigeria began her quest for a record fourth FIFA U17 World Cup title with an emphatic 6-1 dispatch of their Mexican counterparts on Saturday.
The duo of Kelechi Ineanacho and Success Isaac orchestrated the wave that blew the Mexicans apart, with Isaac the Özil of the Golden Eaglets while Ineanacho finished the match with four goals.
The competition had begun with Brazil recording same score in their match against Slovakia, while Uruguay thrashed New Zealand 7-0 in another encounter.
Cote D’Ivoire lost by a lone goal to Italy before drawing their second match 1-1 against Uruguay while Brazil got a second 6-1 win, this time against host nation United Arab Emirates on Sunday.
Africa’s other representatives though have begun well like Nigeria, with Morocco getting a 3-1 win over Croatia in their opening Group C match while Tunisia beat Venezuela 2-1 in their opening Group D match.
Surely a few decent and big European clubs (at least Porto, Ajax and probably a few English clubs) will have scouts watching on the progress of such players as Isaac, Ineanacho, Nathan of Brazil among a few others.
One teenager whose somewhat made it to the big time though is 18 year old Adnan Januzaj, who over the weekend signed a new five year deal with Manchester United and laid to rest his club future at least.
The Belgian/Croat/Serbian/Albanian/Turkish/could-be-English-if-he-chooses teenager will reportedly now earn £30,000 per week, a vast improvement from the previous thousand pound per week contract he was on.
On the field however, his presence failed to transcend a vast improvement of the club’s fortunes as Southampton came away from Old Trafford with a 1-1 draw in a Premier League match on Saturday.
The result leaves the Red Devils in eighth place with 11 points while Southampton dropped to sixth with 15 points, behind Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference after Spurs won 2-0 at Aston Villa and ahead of Everton on goal difference after the Toffees won 2-1 at home to Hull City (Tigers).
Chelsea now occupy second spot with 17 points after an eventful 4-1 win over Cardiff City in a match that witnessed Samuel Eto’o nick the ball while the Cardiff goalkeeper, having made a save, bounced it while preparing to take a goal-kick.
Eto’o’s wit led to Chelsea’s equaliser, before further goals including the Cameroun striker’s first for the club won the three points for the Londoners, whose manager Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands. The ‘Happy One’ would later ‘miss’ the post-match conference.
Elsewhere, Liverpool could only draw 2-2 at 10-man Newcastle United to drop to third behind Chelsea on goal difference while Manchester City is a point behind in fourth after a brace and an assist from Sergio Agüero gave City a 3-1 win at West Ham United.
And Arsenal opened a two-point lead at the top of the league after some sublime football led to the 4-1 defeat of Norwich City through goals from Jack Wilshere, a Mesut Özil brace (including his first ever headed goal) and an emphatic Aaron Ramsey finish.
The Gunners’ focus is now on their third UEFA Champions League match at home to Borussia Dortmund, with the German side coming into the match on the back of a 1-0 win over Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga.
That win kept the bumblebees in second place with 21 points, a point behind Bayern Munich that came from a goal down to crush Mainz 4-1 courtesy of Mario Götze who provided three of the goals there.
Bayer Leverkusen is third with 21 points after getting a 2-1 win at Hoffenheim on Friday in rather odd circumstance, with Sidney Sam giving Leverkusen the lead before Stefan Kießling’s header was counted as a goal despite the ball going into the net through a hole in the sidenetting.
Hannover would then pull a goal back before coming ever so close to an equaliser in the dying minutes, only to be denied by the Leverkusen goalkeeper and twice by the goalpost in a frenetic two seconds.
In the Spanish La Liga, Lionel Messi returned from injury but was unable to prevent Osasuna getting a point from the encounter which ended in a goalless draw.
That result ended Barcelona’s perfect start to the season, having won their opening eight matches heading into the match. Barça though now hold a one point lead over Atletico Madrid whose perfect start also came to an end with Espanyol beating Atletico 1-0 in the pseudo-Clasico.
Both results allowed third placed Real Madrid to come within two points of their city rival and three points of their archrival thanks to a 2-0 win over Malaga with goals from Angel di Maria and a late Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.
In Italy however, Roma maintained their perfect start to the season by winning 2-0 at home to second placed Napoli and also ended with the weekend five points clear of the league as Juventus failed to take advantage of Napoli’s loss.
The Old Lady relinquished a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 at Fiorentina to remain in third place, followed by Hellas Verona with 16 points while Inter Milan and Fiorentina have 15 points with Inter coming away from Turin with a 3-3 draw against Torino.
In France, Paris Saint Germain opened a two point lead at the top of the league thanks to a 4-0 bashing of Bastia with Zlatan scoring two goals including another memorable backheeled goal to add to his collection of audacious goals.
Monaco remain second but saw a 2-0 lead disappear as the principality club was held 2-2 at Sochaux while title rival Olympique Marseille stumbled further, losing 1-0 on Friday.
Still with the French but in tennis, Richard Gasquet hopped over compatriot Jo-Wilfred Tsonga to occupy the final ATP World Tour Final slot after the former won the Kremlin Cup and the latter lost in the semi-final of the Austrian Open.
With one tournament left to play for each player ahead of the London finale which serves off November 4, only three players – Rafael Nadal, defending champion Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer – are outrightly guaranteed of their place.
Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka would confirm their places with good enough showings this week while Roger Federer could still miss out altogether if he performs poorly this week and two of the four players behind him do well.
Those players are Gasquet, Tsonga, Canadian Milos Raonic and German veteran Tommy Haas who gave himself an outside chance of making the London finale by winning the Austrian Open with a 6-3 4-6 6-4 win over Robin Haase.
Federer meanwhile has stated he would be more delighted to see compatriot Wawrinka make the Tour Final than him, having not missed the season’s curtain-closer in the last 11 years.
And with that, it’s the curtain call for this post. On this day, former England international Paul Ince is born in 1967, Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic is born in 1981 and television star Kim Kardashian is born in 1980.
Tomorrow, the Golden Eaglets take on Sweden in what should be their group’s star match while Arsène Wenger will hope for a 64th birthday present with an Arsenal win over Dortmund tomorrow night.
And to you reading, hope you have a great week ahead!
The German Bundesliga has agreed a deal with 21st Century Fox, which will see matches from the league broadcast live for five years from the 2015/16 season in Asia, North and South America as well as for two years in Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The deal – coupled with the rate the Bundesliga’s popularity is growing thanks to on-field performances of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and the German national team by extension – promises to get the Bundesliga at par with the Spanish Primera Division and English Premier League in terms of financial income and by overseas fanbase.
Bayern have started the defence of their Bundesliga and Champions League title on a high, currently leading league rivals Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen by a point while also easing past Manchester City last time out in Europe.
Dortmund on their part are second in Group D ahead of their crucial trip to group leaders Arsenal next week as club football resumes following a raft of 2014 World Cup qualifiers over the international break.
Germany secured qualification with a 3-0 win over Ireland while England and Spain can join the three time champions on Tuesday at the expense of Ukraine and France when they face Poland and Georgia respectively.
In Africa, Samuel Eto’o returned from retirement to bolster Cameroun’s attack in a final qualifying round first leg match at Tunisia on Sunday, but it was Charles-Hubert Itandje who starred for the Indomitable Lions with a number of saves as the match in Tunis ended goalless.
Earlier on Saturday, Algeria left Ouagadougou in largely good spirit following a 3-2 loss against Burkina Faso while Didier Drogba scored twice as Cote D’Ivoire got a 3-1 win at home to Senegal, a healthy enough lead to take into the second leg at Dakar in November.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles will take the healthiest lead into a return leg, after coming from behind to claim a dramatic 2-1 win at Ethiopia on Sunday thanks to a brace from Emmanuel Emenike.
The win in Addis Ababa extended Nigeria’s unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 27 matches and though it put them in great stead ahead of the return leg in Calabar in November, it remains to be seen if Stephen Keshi’s assemble can hold their own outside the continent.
Despite losing to Uruguay and world champions Spain at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, the Super Eagles showed potential in their performance against their more illustrious rivals then and will hope to start living up to their promise when they meet with 2006 world champions Italy in a friendly match at London, days after the return match against Ethiopia.
Before then, the Super Eagles will come up against Jordan on October 28 as Keshi also prepares for the African Nations Championship – competition involving players from respective indigeneous leagues – holding early next year in South Africa.
Meanwhile in the Nigeria Premier League, Kano Pillars remain on course to defend the league title as they remain top of the league with 60 points despite losing 2-1 at Gombe United on Saturday.
With two matches left in the season, Pillars now lead by just a point ahead of Enyimba on 59 points as the Aba Elephants got a lone goal win at home to ABS, while Bayelsa United and El-Kanemi Warriors follow in third and fourth place on 58 and 57 points respectively after both lost 1-0 at Kaduna United and Heartland respectively.
In Formula 1, Sebastien Vettel of Red Bull has not won the world title just yet even though his win at Suzuka is a fifth successive grand prix win on his barge to a fourth successive world title.
Closest challenger Fernando Alonso of Ferrari – who finished fourth and see the world between him and Vettel stretch to 90 points/10 points-under-a-four-race-gap – conceded this season’s title to the German who only has to finish in the top five or not be outscored by 16 points by Alonso in the Indian Grand Prix to win the title.
The Spaniard hence is only content with the consolation of amassing the most points in F1 history after surpassing Michael Schumacher’s all-time score. Alonso has now scored 1,571 points, two more points than Schumacher while Vettel is third on that list with 1,351 points.
While disappointment has largely riddled Ferrari’s season, controversy has courted the Red Bull team with Mark Webber among others claiming the team’s strategy during the race favoured Vettel who had dropped to third at the start of the race with Grosjean jumping into the lead from fourth ahead of Webber.
The race had witnessed Webber being made to make three pit stops while Vettel made two stops; with the first pit stop of Webber coming at lap 11, four laps before Vettel’s first and enough time for the latter to take and build on a lead ahead of him and Grosjean.
Webber’s second stop, at lap 25, effectively ended his chance of winning the race and for a while looked to ensure he wouldn’t go past Grosjean, with Vettel making his second and final pit stop at lap 37 of 53.
Webber eventually only went past Grosjean in the penultimate lap, as late as it is to plaster a deep wedge driven deeper between both drivers from much earlier in the season when Vettel had disobeyed team instructions and forced Webber to let him pass on his way to winning the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.
And while he denied it, it is believed that incident led to Webber deciding he will leave the team and the sport at the end of this season and join Porsche next year in their Le Mans sportscar programme.
Finally from tennis, Novak Djokovic made it 20 consecutive match wins on Chinese courts following his 6-1 3-6 7-6 win over Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the Shanghai Masters.
Del Potro had earlier in the semi-final inflicted only a fifth defeat of the season on Rafael Nadal, whose season record now stands at 68 wins in 73 matches while Djokovic has now won 62 matches this season.
That’s the bit from here. Came across this amusing story of a footballer whose brace in a Tajikistan league match resulted in power and water supply to his home being cut.
On this day, Nigerian footballer Ahmed Musa is born in 1992, David Beckham played his last match for England in 2009, the children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne is first published in 1926, English actor Roger Moore is born in 1927, fashion designer Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lifshitz) is born in 1939 and the first live television broadcast from space is done in 1968.
Have a pleasant week ahead wherever this post meets you.
Football from over the weekend served up a number of eventful matches across Europe while Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal to the China Open title and Sebastien Vettel won a fourth successive race and edge closer to an inevitable fourth successive Formula 1 title.
Jack Wilshere’s first goal in three years helped Arsenal get 1-1 draw at West Brom and return to the top of the Premier League by virtue of goals scored ahead of Liverpool that eased to a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace with goals from Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard with a penalty.
Chelsea is now two points behind the early pacesetters after also getting a 3-1 win at Norwich City with goals from midfielders Oscar, Eden Hazard and a first time shot from Willian, hours before Willian’s should’ve-been club Tottenham Hotspur got hammered 3-0 at home by West Ham United and dropped to sixth as a result, three points behind the leaders.
Manchester City is fifth with 13 points, ahead of Spurs on goal difference after a 3-1 win over Everton that dropped to a point behind City in seventh place while Southapton is fourth with 14 points thanks to a 2-0 win over Swansea City.
Osaze Odemwingie got his first goal for Cardiff City but Loïc Remy’s brace for Newcastle United got the headlines and the three points for the 11th placed Toons while Manchester United is ninth after coming from behind to win 2-1 as well at Newcastle’s local rivals Sunderland.
The highlight from the Stadium of Light was Adnan Januzaj’s well taken brace, which brought to light a number of facts including the 18 year old is eligible to represent as many as six countries including Belgium and England.
We also now know he earns (just) a thousand pounds per week and not necessarily as a result but, he’s going to leave next year Pogba style unless he gets a new (much improved) contract at Old Trafford.
Paul Pogba’s £20,000 game week ended on a bit of a personal low, getting swarmed by three Milan players while in possession of the ball, resulting in Sulley Muntari’s second goal for AC Milan in the 3-2 loss at Juventus.
Muntari had put the Milan side ahead after just 20 seconds but a freekick from Andrea Pirlo and further goals from Sebastien Giovinco and Giorgio Chiellini off a Pirlo freekick put Juve 3-1 up before Muntari’s late consolation.
Juve remain third with 19 points, behind Napoli on goal difference as the Sicilians dispatched Livorno 4-0 to remain two points behind the impressing AS Roma that sustained their perfect start to the Serie A season with a 3-0 win at Inter Milan, playing the last quarter of an hour there with 10 men after Balzaretti got sent off.
Elsewhere, Hellas Verona jumped to fifth with 13 points, a point behind fourth placed Inter, with a 4-1 win at Bologna while Fiorentina and SS Lazio follow the newly promoted Hellas on the league table after both drew goalless in their match in the Italian capital.
In Spain’s capital city, Atletico Madrid maintained their perfect start to La Liga with a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo, a match in which Atletico’s Diego Costa – celebrating his 25th birthday today – missed a first half penalty before scoring a brace either side of half time to make it 10 goals in eight matches this season for him and 24 points from 8 league matches for Atletico.
Barcelona however lead La Liga with a slightly better goal difference as Neymar starred in absence of the injured Lionel Messi in a 4-1 win over Real Valladolid.
Barça’s archrival Real Madrid returned to third place with 19 points by a last gasp Cristiano Ronaldo goal in a 3-2 win at Levante while Villarreal returned to two points behind Real having won 3-0 against Granada on Friday.
In France, Monaco maintained its unbeaten return to Ligue 1 with a 2-1 win over St. Etienne, enough to keep the principality side top of the league with 21 points ahead of PSG on goal difference with the Parisians playing an hour of Le Classique with 10 men yet winning 2-1 at fourth placed Olympique Marseille.
The result of the weekend however came from Stade de la Mosson where 2012 league champions Montpellier handed Olympique Lyon a 5-1 thrashing, sending Lyon down to 14th while Montpellier rose to eighth with the win, which ended a run of five successive draws.
A draw meanwhile would’ve kept Borussia Dortmund top of the Bundesliga but Jürgen Klopp’s side fell to a 2-0 loss at Borussia Monchengladbach, allowing Bayern Munich to take top spot for the first time this season after playing out a 1-1 draw at third placed Bayer Leverkusen; the last team to defeat Bayern in the league… 33 games ago.
In Korea, German driver Sebastien Vettel made it four successive grand prix wins by taking the Korean GP ahead of soon to be Ferrari driver Kimi Raïkkönen and Romain Grosjean, with Vettel’s closest rival in the title race Fernando Alonso finishing sixth behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in fifth and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg in fourth.
But all attention in the far east is on Vettel, who could wrap his fourth successive championship win up in next weekend’s grand prix in Japan, given he wins there and Alonso – who is 77 points/three races and two points behind – doesn’t finish above eighth place. After all that went down in the Korean GP, it’s quite possible.
Finally, while Vettel’s drive to the championship has become an inevxorable happening, Novak Djokovic could still regain top spot on the tennis world rankings after relinquishing that spot to Rafael Nadal despite beating the Spaniard 6-3 6-4 to win the China Open in Beijing on Sunday.
Next up for both men, 40 points apart on the rankings, is the Shanghai Masters this week ahead of the season ending ATP World Tour Finals in London where the top eight players on the men’s rankings compete from two groups of four players each for the title.
Already guaranteed a place in the singles event holding at the O2 Arena from November 4 to 11 are defending champion Djokovic, Nadal, Andy Murray and David Ferrer. I’m guessing (and hoping) Djokovic will finish the year as world number oneif he wins there and Nadal doesn’t make the final.
Till then, there are going to be World Cup qualifiers across the world ahead of Brazil 2014. Nigeria will visit Ethiopia for the first leg of their final round playoff on October 13.
In the Nigeria Premier League, Kano Pillars (third with 57 points after 35 matches) will ‘host’ league leaders Enyimba (with 59 points) in Lokoja during the week as the local league winds to a dramatic close with four clubs in the thick of the title race, including Bayelsa United and El-Kanemi that both only regained promotion to the top division this season.
That’s the bit from here. On this day in 2006, Gareth Bale became the youngest goalscorer for the Welsh national team in a Euro 2008 qualifying match they lost 5-1 to Slovakia.
Also on this day, Nigeria joined the United Nations in 1960, former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva was born in 1976, former Milan goalkeeper Dida was born in 1973 as was Bayer Leverkusen manager Sami Hyypiä, and Tottenham striker Jermaine Defoe was born in 1982.
Many happy returns to them and many others, including Bukky, celebrating. Have a pleasant week ahead wherever this post meets you.
Following Sunderland’s 3-0 loss at West Brom in a Premier League match on Saturday, a match former player as at a fornight ago Stephane Sessegnon scored the first, travelling fans of the Black Cats sang to Paolo Di Canio he was getting sacked in the morning. How wrong they were… he got sacked in the evening, but no matter as they got their wish anyway.
But after only 13 matches? Appropriately if you’re the superstitious type and expectedly if you’re the analytic mind having watched the Italian sell a number of players, bring in 14 players, openly criticise his team individually and collectively on a number of occasions and, rather dramatically, communicate with the fans with his exaggerated goal celebrations or aggrieved gestures culminating with the aggrieved gestures to fans who sang his imminent exit to him.
Di Canio’s exit splits opinion though. Why allow him change the team so if he won’t be given time to make them gel? However, one point from five matches this season and three wins from 13 matches since being appointed late last season is more than enough to get him sacked (although the official statement from the club says they ‘parted ways’).
Most of all, the Italian shot himself in the foot time and again by continuously criticising his team, subtly exempting self from blame over the dire situation at the club by so doing. Even Jose Mourinho would be amazed by Di Canio’s drama, but the Portuguese has his own crate of eggs to watch over.
Having left Juan Mata out of the squad and David Luiz for ‘form reasons’, Chelsea got a 2-0 win at home to local rivals Fulham with goals from Oscar who’s keeping Mata out of the team and, for his first ever since joining the Premier League, John Mikel Obi. The Nigerian’s goal completely wiping off the gloom that was previously on Roman Abramovic’s face all afternoon.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Simon Mignolet’s stock rose further after making seven saves yet his Liverpool team still managed to lose 1-0 at home to Southampton and drop from top to fifth with 10 points, Merseyside rivals Everton came from behind to get a thrilling 3-2 win at West Ham United through a Leighton Baines brace of freekicks and Romelu Lukaku’s first for the club.
Loïc Remy scored twice and missed a late chance as Newcastle United lost 3-2 at home to Hull City (Tigers), Christian Benteke went off injured (to send fantasy league managers wailing) in Aston Villa’s lone goal win at Norwich City while Swansea City is now ninth with seven points behind Manchester United on goal difference thanks to a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.
More fantasy league managers and indeed every red devil began wailing when news that Robin van Persie got injured just before the derby filtered out, a precursor for the terrible Sunday afternoon they were to endure as Sergio Agüero scored twice to help Man. City to a crushing 4-1 win, sending the blue side of Manchester up to third with 10 points ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.
Unusually, the north London clubs hold the league’s top spot, with Tottenham Hotspur second with 12 points courtesy of a 93rd minute earned 1-0 win at Cardiff City while Arsenal töp the league ahead öf their löcal rivals ön göal difference föllöwing a 3-1 win at höme to Stöke City thanks tö göals from Aarön Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna, all directly and otherwise assisted by Mesut Özil.
Özil’s former club Real Madrid were unable to hand Gareth Bale his home debut after the Welsh, just like former Southampton teammate Theo Walcott, got injured just before the match against local rivals Getafe, a match comfortably won 4-1 nonetheless with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a brace to go past Hugo Sanchez on the all time Madrid scoring list.
Barcelona however remain top of the league with a perfect record after five matches ahead of Atletico and Real Madrid on goal difference and by two points respectively following a 4-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, with Lionel Messi not scoring in his 250th appearance and Pedro Rodriguez getting a hattrick instead.
Napoli also maintained its perfect start in Italy, getting historic 2-1 win at AC Milan in a match Mario Balotelli failed to score a penalty for the first time in his career, before scoring from open play only to get himself sent off after full time for dissent. ”Why always me?”
Napoli however dropped to second behind AS Roma on goal difference after the Giallorossi won a fiery derby di capitale 2-0 ‘at home’ to 10-man SS Lazio on Sunday. Champions Juventus remained fifth, two points behind the leading duo, despite a 2-1 win over Hellas Verona.
Inter Milan rose to third with 10 points, ahead of Juventus and Fiorentina on goal difference, after easing to a 7-0 demolition of newly promoted Sassuolo while Giuseppe Rossi continued his scoring streak after two years without a goal (or decent run of games even) in Fiorentina’s 2-0 win at Atalanta.
In France, the billionaire clash between PSG and AS Monaco ended in a 1-1 draw with Radamel Falcao cancelling out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s early opener for the Parisians, keeping Monaco top of Ligue 1 with 14 points ahead of PSG and St. Etienne with 12 points while Olympique Marseille have 11 points in fourth place ahead of Nice and Rennes on goal difference following a goalless draw against newly promoted Bastia – Sebastien Squillaci’s club.
Bayern Munich went level on 16 points with Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen a point behind in third courtesy of a 4-0 crushing of Ruhr side Schalke 04, with Dortmund ending a frustrating week with a 1-1 draw at Bavarian side Nürnberg having lost at Napoli in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
In the CAF Champions League, defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt secured top spot and a semi-final berth from Group A following a goalless draw at Orlando Pirates, a result convenient enough to send Pirates through in second spot ahead of Zamalek that demolished AC Leopards 4-1 hours earlier in Egypt on Sunday.
Al Ahly will now face Coton Sport of Cameroun that finished second in Group B even before their 2-1 loss at group winner Esperance, with the Tunisian side now set to face Pirates in the other semi-final holding on the first weekend of October with the return fixtures a fortnight later.
Nigerian league title holders Kano Pillars meanwhile edged closer to competing for the Champions League next season and retaining the Nigerian league title after a 2-0 win over Warri Wolves in Kaduna.
With five matches left in the season, Pillars lead with 57 points and lie two points ahead of Bayelsa United that beat Enyimba by a lone goal and send the Aba Elephants down to fourth with 52 points, two points behind El-Kanemi Warriors that got a lone goal win over Gombe United.
In other matches, Kwara United remained fifth despite a 1-0 loss at Dolphins, Shooting Stars remain in the relegation zone despite a 2-1 win at home to Rangers with Wikki Tourists now level on 42 points with the Ibadan side after a 3-0 win over Nembe City, sending Nembe bottom of the league behind Shooting and Wikki on goal difference.
Finally, to the top of Formula 1 where Sebastien Vettel put in another devastating performance to win the Singapore Grand Prix and widen the gap between him and Fernando Alonso, who finished second in the race, to 60 points with six races left in the season.
Though Vettel, reigning back to back to back champion, had opened a significant lead before the safety car was deployed, the German driver went Johnny Blaze on his rivals in the final 30 laps after the safety car went off, finishing the race half a minute ahead of his nearest rival Alonso with Kimi Räikkönen taking the last podium place ahead of the Mercedes’ of Nico Rosberg and former world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Only way Alonso can overhaul Vettel now is to win the remaining six races and watch Vettel fail to finish in a podium position once. Hamilton, who is a handful of points from being four races behind Vettel on the championship table… it’s ridiculous bringing up these permutations even as Vettel looks odds on to win a fourth successive drivers championship.
With that, it’s a wrap here. Plenty to look forward to thid week including Nicklas Bendtner’s first match for Arsenal in two years when the Gunners face West Brom in the Capital One Cup, and Luis Suarez’s likely return from a 10-match ban in Liverpool’s match against Manchester United in the same competition.
On this day in history, Nintendo is founded in 1889, Bisexuality Day is observed in the United States, Juan Martin Del Potro celebrates his 25th birthday, Saudi Arabia their national day and the Week for the Poor begins at St. Dominic’s Church today.
Be charitable as you have a pleasant week wherever you are. Cheers.
It was suppösed tö be the Mesut Özil shöw and for 45 minutes at the Stadium öf Light, Özil had prövided an assist for Ölivier Giröud tö scöre his first Premier League göal öutside Löndön beföre enduring the sight öf Theo Walcott spurn chance after chance.
But nö matter, Arsenal’s £42.4m man was at somewhere clöse to his peak even in illness; having tö start in Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Sunderland nö thanks tö fellöw twö-fööted midfielder Santi Cazörla becöming unavailable för the match at half past the 11th höur.
An eventful secönd half that saw Sunderland equalise fröm the spöt and have a göal ruled öut för öffside beföre succumbing to a well taken brace by Aarön Ramsey, meaning the blössöming Welsh midfielder shared the majör plaudits from the encöunter with Özil, as Arsenal went töp öf the league för the mean time.
The Gunners are followed by North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur that defeated Norwich City 2-0 through a Gylfi Sigurdsson brace for their first league goals from open play this season, while Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney – wearing a cushioned head band- scored as champions Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Old Trafford.
In other matches, Stoke City was the latest to make Manuel Pellegrini’s Premier League debut a tough one so far as the Chilean manager could only watch his Man. City side play out a goalless draw against the Potters. But Pellegrini’s faring better than Jose Mourinho whose second spell with Chelsea isn’t getting easier either following a lone goal loss at Everton.
Samuel Eto’o made his debut for Chelsea but was denied a debut goal in the first half as Mourinho’s side fell at Merseyside and on the league table to sixth place on seven points, behind both Manchester clubs on goal difference and ahead of Stoke and Newcastle United on goal difference with the latter getting a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Gareth Bale also made his debut in Spain for Real Madrid, and even scored as his new club twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Villarreal, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring Real’s second in that encounter before signing a contract extension that will keep him at Madrid till 2018 but more importantly, makes him the highest paid player on the planet with a reported £300,000 per week after tax deal… Bale earns same amount, before tax.
The result meanwhile saw both sides fall two points behind the leading duo in the Primera Liga, with Barcelona now sharing top spot with Atletico Madrid courtesy of a 94th minute Alexis Sanchez strike in a highly dramatic 3-2 win over Sevilla on Saturday.
On their part, Atletico earlier beat Almeria 4-2 to make it a perfect 12 points from four games alongside Barça, with both clubs having same goal difference having scored and conceded same number of goals so far.
Similar sharing could occur in Italy if Roma come away with a 4-2 win from Parma tonight, as they then would have nine points from three matches and same goals’ records with Napoli that beat Atalanta 2-0 on Saturday courtesy of goals in each half from former Real Madrid strikers Gonzalo Higuaìn and Jose Callejon.
Napoli’s win put them two points ahead of Inter Milan and champions Juventus after the archrivals played out a 1-1 draw at the San Siro. Fiorentina is also two points behind Napoli following a 1-1 draw at home to Cagliari while Livorno and Lazio follow sixth placed Roma on the table, with Livorno beating Catania 2-0 while Lazio won 3-0 at home to Chievo Verona on Sunday.
Elsewhere in Italy, Kaka made his AC Milan return at Torino buz it was Mario Balotelli who got the headlines as his stoppage time penalty salvaged a 2-2 draw for Milan in Turin. A penalty proved crucial as well in France, though Radamel Falcao’s came after just six minutes but ended up being the only goal in Monaco’s win at home to Lorient.
The win allowed Monaco to return to the top of Ligue 1 with 13 points, a points ahead of St. Etienne that had enjoyed top spot for some hours following a 3-1 win at Valenciennes on Saturday. St. Etienne had claimed top spot from champions PSG, now third with 11 points, after the Parisians won 2-0 at Bordeaux on Friday night.
Elsewhere, Marseille dropped to fourth with 10 points following a 1-1 draw at Toulouse while Olympique Lyon drew goalless at home to Rennes in a match that saw Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis make an unlikely appearance from the start having till only recently been banned from the first team no thanks to a rift with the club’s hierarchy.
Quite the opposite for Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who both continue to warm their way into the good side of the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy after scoring in the crushing 6-2 defeat of Hamburg on Saturday, a win that maintained Dortmund’s perfect start to the Bundesliga season after five games.
Champions Bayern Munich trail by two points in second place following a 2-0 win at home to Hannover 96 while Bayer Leverkusen is a further points behind in third place after a 3-1 win at home to Wolfsburg with Stefan Kießling scoring a brace for Leverkusen and increase his tally to four league goals. Deutsche-Nigerian Sidney Sam got Leverkusen’s other goal there.
In Nigeria, the Federations Cup final was won by Enyimba on Sunday in dramatic fashion, twice coming from behind to finish the match against Warri Wolves 2-2 – with Enyimba’s second coming deep in stoppage time through Uwa Ugwu’s freekick – before winning 5-4 on penalties for their second title in five seasons.
Earlier on, Rivers Angels won the women’s final of the Cup after easing to a 3-0 win over Nasarawa with Gloria Ofuegbu scoring a brace as the Angels successfully defended their title.
Enyimba meanwhile have secured a spot in next season’s CAF Confederations Cup although Wolves could still get that ticket if Enyimba, currently fourth on the league table, manage to win the league or finish second and qualify for next year’s CAF Champions League.
In this year’s CAF Champions League, Ah Ahly on Sunday came from a goal down to defeat Cairo archrivals Zamalek 4-2 and all but secure passage to the semi-final with a game to spare in Group A. Deposed group leader Orlando Pirates lost by a lone goal at AC Leopards of Congo on Saturday.
The latter result means Pirates and Leopards, both with seven points, or Zamalek with four points could still qualify from the group if results in the final group matches on September 22 go their respective ways, with Pirates next facing Ahly at home while Leopards visit Zamalek. While the others need a win, Ahly will qualify if Leopards fail to win at Zamalek.
In Group B, Esperance of Tunisia secured top spot and a semi-final place with 12 points from five matches following a 3-2 win at home to Recreativo do Libolo while Cotonsport, with eight points, qualified for the last four in second spot after a goalless draw at Sewe Sport that has four points along with Recreativo.
And in the Davis Cup semi-final, having lost the third rubber doubles match to go 2-1 down, Serbia defeated Canada by three rubbers to two through wins by Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic in their respective singles matches against Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil.
Serbia, champions in 2010, will now face defending champions Czech Republic in the final after the Czech’s, led by Tomas Berdych, completed a 5-0 rout of Argentina in the other semi-final. The final will take place between November 15-17 at Belgrade.
Spain and Great Britain meanwhile returned to the World Group with Spain winning all five rubbers against Ukraine while Great Britain got a 4-1 win over Croatia to make it through to the World Group where countries will know their first round opponents when the draws are held on Wednesday.
With that, it’s a wrap from here. This season’s UEFA Champions League kicks off from Tuesday with Manchester United hosting Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal visiting Marseille, Napoli hosting Dortmund and Ajax facing Barcelona at the Camp Nou in some of this week’s matches.
Today marks the independence of Mexico from Spain in 1810 and the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer… so you might as well plant a tree or not drive a car today, unless it’s hybrid of course.
On this day in 1959, the first successful photocopier, the Xerox 914, is introduced in New York on live television. Nine years later in 1968, singer Marc Anthony is born while in 1984, Georgian singer Katie Melua is born.
Many happy returns to them and everyone else born today. And a pleasant week to us all wherever we are.
Not sure what should have me more pissed off, that the C in one of Apple’s two new iPhones – after the hype around it – does not stand for cheap apparently or that Cape Verde got themselves bundled out of the 2014 World Cup race by world football’s governing body FIFA?
The latter came about after it was found that the Islanders had fielded an ineligible player in what was an historic match at Tunisia, which Cape Verde had won 2-0 on the field but eventually lost 3-0 in the ‘boardroom’ no thanks to Fernando Varela.
Varela was given a straight red card in the 88th minute of an earlier qualifying match at Equatorial Guinea and was consequently punished with a four match ban; with the trip to Tunisia for that crucial qualifying match supposed to be the last match of that ban.
But all that is nothing to the great and amusing irony the football gods had in store in this dramatic episode… Varela was sent off in a match that was later awarded as a 3-0 win to Cape Verde, after it was found that Equatorial Guinea had fielded an ineligible player. Wherever realm it is these gods reside, the song of the day there was Justin Timberlake’s ”What Goes Around… ”.
The melodramatic mood of the song can be said to be same aura under which the penultimate round of World Cup qualifying in Africa ended. On other continents meanwhile, a number of countries sealed their passage to the World Cup including the Netherlands and Italy while Germany and Switzerland moved a step closer to doing just that.
A Robin van Persie brace helped the Dutch men to a 2-0 success at Andorra, Switzerland got a 2-0 win at Norway, goals from Arsenal duo Per Mertesacker and Mesut Özil as well as another from Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller gave Germany a 3-0 win over Faroe Islands and Italy on their part were made to sweat a bit, coming from behind to subdue the Czech Republic 2-1.
That loss all but ended the Czech’s hope of at least finishing in a playoff spot, falling four points behind second placed Bulgaria in Group B after the latter won 2-1 at Malta to remain a point ahead of third placed Denmark that won by a lone goal at Armenia.
Scandinavian neighbours Sweden also won by a lone goal scored after only 30 seconds by Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Kazakhstan and edge closer to claiming a playoff spot ahead of third placed Austria that trail by three points following a lone goal win at home to the Republic of Ireland.
In other groups, Russia defeated Israel 3-1 to go top of Group F, a point ahead of Portugal who were busy getting beat 3-1 by Brazil in a friendly match, Turkey began yet another reign under Fatih Terim with a crucial 2-0 win at Romania while Hungary went second in Group D, a point ahead of those two, courtesy of a 5-1 win over Estonia.
Then there was England’s bore draw at Ukraine, which put the Three Lions top of Group H with 16 points and – coupled with Poland’s 5-1 win at San Marino – meant the top four nations in that group are separated by three points and each now have a chance of picking the World Cup spot or settle for the playoff spot.
Four nations also are meanwhile vying for two World Cup spots while a further fifth nation remain outsiders to clinch a playoff spot from the South American section of qualifying. All of that would be none of Argentina’s business however, following a 5-2 win at bottom nation Paraguay.
PSG’s record signing striker Edinson Cavani meanwhile scored in Uruguay’s 2-0 win over Colombia, preventing Monaco’s record signing striker Radamel Falcao and compatriots from joining Argentina right away.
Uruguay now lie fifth with 22 points, behind Ecuador on goal difference while Chile is third with 24 points and travel to Colombia, who have 26 points, in the next round of qualifying matches next month.
By that time, a more likely destination of this season’s Nigeria Profesional Football League title would be clearer. For now, Kano Pillars remain on course to defend the league title after claiming a lone goal win at home to former champions Enyimba in a Matchday 31 encounter during the week.
The result left Enyimba trailing Pillars by five points with seven matches left in the season. El-Kanemi Warriors meanwhile remain in second spot with 52 points, two points behind Pillars, after a lone goal win over Kwara United while Bayelsa United stay third on goal difference following a lone goal win at home to Enugu Rangers.
Other results saw ABS beat Sunshine Stars 2-1 in Ilorin and Kaduna United lose 3-0 at Gombe United. Nembe City lost by same score as Kaduna United in their match at Lobi Stars, Nasarawa United beat Wikki Tourists by a lone goal and Warri Wolves lost 2-1 at Dolphins of Port Harcourt… far from ideal preparation for Wolves ahead of the Federations Cup final.
Wolves’ opponent in Sunday’s final also lost during the week but, being their fourth appearance in the last five finals of the Cup, Enyimba will head into the encounter a bit more confident. Wolves could gain some courage from the fact that Enyimba have lost two of the previous three final appearances.
In far away England meanwhile, Sunderland have won just one of their last nine home meetings with Arsenal in the league, making the Gunners favourites in this weekend’s Premier League match at the Stadium of Light; a match that could see record signing Özil make his highly anticipated debut for the visitors.
Elsewhere, Marouane Fellaini could make his Manchester United debut when Crystal Palace visit Old Trafford, Romelo Lukaku will be ‘team tied’ when Everton face his real employer Chelsea while Merseyside rivals and league leaders Liverpool travel to Wales to face that nation’s finest team Swansea City on Monday.
That country’s finest (in the financial and talent context) player meanwhile is set to make his debut in Spain for Real Madrid in a La Liga match at newly promoted Villarreal that have began the season on a high and lie in third place with nine points, ahead of Real on goal difference.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed this ahead of the match, despite Gareth Bale only just playing competitive football for the first time this season with a substitute’s appearance in Wales’ 3-0 home loss to Serbia in a World Cup qualifying match.
Elsewhere in Spain, Kevin Gameiro’s Sevilla embark on daunting trip to face Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona while second placed Atletico Madrid, Falcao’s former club, host Almeria in another Liga match on Saturday.
Falcao on his part will be out to help his Monaco side regain top spot in Saturday’s Ligue 1 match at home to Lorient, after champions PSG went top of the league with a 2-0 win at Bordeaux on Friday night, courtesy of goals in each half from midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Lucas.
In Italy, the match of the weekend comes up on Saturday at the San Siro between champions Juventus and an Inter Milan side enjoying an early bloom in the Walter Mazzari era. Another Turin vs. Milan match will be played right after when AC Milan visit Torino.
Over in Formula 1, two big names will compete for same team from next season after Italian Formula 1 giants Ferrari announced Kimi Räikkönen will be driving the for the stallion from next season alongside Fernando Alonso, completing a return to the team where he won the drivers championship half a decade ago.
Räikkönen’s arrival also marked the end of Felipe Massa’s time with Ferrari, finally leaving having drove all his time there as second driver behind the great Michael Schumacher, Räikkönen and till the end of the season, Alonso. Admittedly, the accident he survived four seasons ago at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
It is hoped that with two former champions competing side by side; despite assertions that Räikkönen’s arrival would upset Alonso, Ferrari will be able to launch a real go at the drivers and constructors title next season, more so the former which has been dominated by RedBull’s German driver Sebastien Vettel who has won the last three championships and currently holds a two-race lead over Alonso with seven races left this season.
While a Spaniard and a Finn prepare to get acquaintted and upstage a German, Serbian tennis star and world number one Novak Djokovic is out helping his nation in the Davis Cup, handing Serbia the lead in their semifinal clash against Canada with a straight sets win before Janko Tipsarevic was beaten in five sets by Milos Raonic in the second rubber match to bring the Canadians back on level terms.
The second semifinal sees defending champions Czech Republic well on their way to another final after taking a 2-0 lead against Argentina thanks to wins by Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych over Juan Monaco and Leonardo Mayer respectively.
Hoping Djokovic is able to see Serbia through just as I’m looking forward to Özil’s debut more than Bale’s or Fellaini’s… or Eto’o’s… or James McCarthy’s… or whoever else is making a debut this weekend.
And… it’s a wrap from here. Happy birthday to American rapper Nas and every one else born on this day, including my cousin Tinuke. Best wished to them, and a pleasant weekend to us all. Cheers!
Now I’m pleasantly confused about who exactly we should address the king of New York, the California rapper Kendrick Lamar who crowned himself recently and stirred an uproar of responses or the tennis player who will win this year’s US Open? Modern era game of thrones.
Anyway. Rafael Nadal will come up against Novak Djokovic in the final of the last grand slam of the year, a fitting match-up between a player in arguably the best form of the season compared to others and unbeaten on the hard courts this year opposite the game’s top ranked player appearing in his fourth successive final at Flushing Meadows.
In the women’s section, Serena Williams already came through a tough two sets before easing past Belarusian Victoria Azarenka to claim her fifth US Open title and 17th career grand slam, one title short of equalling the haul of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert as she further cemented her place among the tennis greats.
Another who is on a firm course to achieving greatness in his sport is Sebastien Vettel, following the RedBull driver’s Italian Grand Prix win at Monza; his sixth Grand Prix win of this Formula 1 season and 32nd of all time – equal with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso.
Alonso on his part finished second in the race and afterwards expressed his happiness (more like content) at finishing in the position and you can’t blame him really, seeing as Vettel now holds a cushy 53 point lead on him in the drivers’ championship table; a lead that basically gives Vettel a two-race lead on his nearest rival with seven races to go.
The race to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Africa meanwhile is down to two matches following the final group matches of the penultimate qualifying round played across the continent over the weekend, with a few ‘minnows’ making the the final qualifying round at the expense their more established rivals.
One was Ethiopia that came from behind to claim a 2-1 win at the Central Africa Republic and qualify ahead of South Africa. The Bafana Bafana were on course at half time of both matches but eventually fell short of qualification despite a 4-1 win over Botswana.
Ethiopia was joined in the final qualifying round by 2013 Nations Cup crowd favourites Cape Verde, who completed a massive turnaround of fortunes in their qualifying campaign, culminating in the 2-0 defeat of Tunisia right in Tunis.
Also through is Nations Cup runners-up Burkina Faso and Nations Cup holders Nigeria. Burkina Faso went through with a lone goal win over Gabon, a result that allowed the Burkinabes leapfrog Congo that could only draw 2-2 at Niger, while Nigeria defeated Malawi 2-0 in Calabar.
Nearby at Port-Harcourt, Akwa United was held to a 1-1 draw by home side Sharks in a Nigeria Professional Football League match on Sunday, a result that left both sides still in the botyom half of the league on 41 and 40 points respectively.
Elsewhere, goals in the closing 15 minutes got Enyimba a 3-0 win over Lobi Stars in Aba, allowing the Elephants with 49 points to take over second spot on goal difference from Bayelsa United that lost by a lone goal to Heartland in Owerri.
League leaders Kano Pillars remain two points clear despite losing 2-1 at Nasarawa United, Kwara United fell to sixth no thanks to a 2-0 loss at Kaduna United while Enugu Rangers returned to the top half of the league in ninth place with 42 points thanks to a lone goal win over Wikki Tourists.
The Stars’ match between Sunshine and Shooting; both in dim league positions however, was meanwhile called off with Sunshine leading 2-1. The League Management Company tweeted the reason for the match not being completed as security issues while from another medium, heavy rain was cited as reason.
Might as well call it a wrap with today’s round up, or start to at least. Happy that Tokyo was named as host city for the 2020 Olympics, the penultimate of a series of major sporting events that will be hosted in the middle or far east from 2014 to 2022.
Sochi in Russia will host next year’s Winter Olympic Games (and Paralympics by default) before passing the torch to Pyeongchang in South Korea for the 2018 edition(s), same year Russia get to host the FIFA World Cup. Then it’s Tokyo in 2020 with the Olympics (and the Paralympics by default as well) followed by Qatar with the much debated 2022 FIFA World Cup…
… and I’m on the winter World Cup side of the debate, even though hosting it in summer as usual could be to the African teams’ advantage but footballers’ health should come first. Footballers such as Oscar, Alex Song and Luka Modric who will be in their early or mid-thirties when the 2022 mundial kicks off.
The trio, along with American goalkeeper Brad Guzan, are born on this day, as is Heath Ledger’s acting widow Michelle Williams, Canadian singer Michael Bublé and Parma manager Roberto Donadoni. Happy birthday to them and everybody else celebrating today and tomorrow (good friend Mrs. C. C. Muonagor and writer Chimamanda Adichie). Best wishes!
Finally, on this day, in 1791 Washington, D.C. is named after President George Washington, the Dubai Metro, which is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula, is ceremonially inaugurated at exactly 9:09:09p.m. in 2009 and in the year 337, Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans I succeed their father Constantine I as co-emperors hence, the Roman Empire is divided between the three Augusti.
The thing about expectations sometimes… a lot of times actually, is that it is the unexpectant who truly relish the good that comes their way or otherwise tend to best manage a disappointment. And the week was full of both sides, from unexpected joy to the not so expected disappointments.
Ahead of the US Open, much talk was made about the possibility of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer meeting for the first time in the final grand slam of the at the quarterfinal stage. People also looked forward to how well defending champion Andy Murray would do at Flushing Meadows.
Following routine opening round wins, Roger Federer was first to go as the Swiss former world number one was beaten in straight sets by Tommy Robredo in only the fourth round, only for Robredo to get thrashed out in straight sets by a ruthless Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Federer’s defeat, which will likely see him drop even lower than his current low of seventh on the world rankings by Monday morning, drove home the point that the Swiss master is well past his dominating best days.
Andy Murray’s quarterfinal loss to the long upcoming Swiss ninth seed Stanslas Wawrinka, in brutal straight sets, set up a not so likely US Open semifinal clash with world number one Novak Djokovic who dropped a set against Mikhail Youzhny but was largely untroubled in a four set win over the Russian veteran.
The expectation would be for Djokovic to win and set up a potentially intriguing final against Nadal who faces eighth seed Richard Gasquet in the other semifinal. But from results in earlier rounds, the men’s draw has taught us all to be unexpectant and simply enjoy the sublime tennis on display.
In the women’s draw however, it’s all gone to plan as top seeds Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka powered through the rounds to set up the much expected final match which will be played much later today.
Azarenka went past Flavia Pennetta of Italy in her semifinal while world number one Serena lost only three games as she crushed China’s Li Na 6-0 6-3 before however being knocked out of the doubles event with her sister Venus.
Not much change would reflect on the women’s world ranking with Serena set to maintain top spot ahead of Azarenka. The men’s rankings however should witness a host of changes below Djokovic and Nadal, more so if both lose their semifinal matches.
Nadal’s country Spain meanwhile remain on course to qualify for the football World Cup next year in Brazil, with Vicente Del Bosque’s side now on 14 points from six matches and edging closer to sealing passage to the mundial following a 2-0 win at Finland in one of many qualifiers played last night.
France went three points behind the Spaniards in Group I after being held to a goalless draw at Georgia, leaving Les Bleus needing a big win at Belarus next week to replace Spain atop the group albeit having played a game more.
In Group F, a Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick helped Portugal come from behind to beat Northern Ireland 4-2 and remain top of with 17 points, two points ahead of Russia that beat Luxembourg 4-1 in Moscow.
Danny Welbeck scored twice and Rickie Lambert put in yet another commendable display as England eased to a 4-0 win over Moldova to go top of Group H with 15 points, ahead of Montenegro – that have played a game more – on difference, while Ukraine demolished San Marino 9-0 to stay in third place with 14 points.
Poland’s hopes of qualifying from the group remain faint as a Robert Lewandowski strike earned a 1-1 draw at home to Montengro and keep them in fourth place on 10 points, though an expected win at San Marino next week would boost their hopes, more so with England facing Ukraine in Kyiv in the group’s other match next week.
Elsewhere, the Netherlands needed a stoppage time Robin van Persie penalty to salvage a 2-2 draw from their trip to Estonia though a win from their final three matches would seal qualification to the World Cup. As would for Germany from Group C after beating neighbours Austria 3-0 in a match Miroslav Klose became the German national team’s joint all time leading goalscorer with 68 goals.
Italy edged closer to qualification with a hardfought 1-0 win at home to Bulgaria in Group B, goals from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas late on handed Belgium a 2-0 win at Scotland to leave the Red Devils a win from qualification from Group A while elsewhere in the group, Aaron Ramsey’s penalty was mere consolation as Wales, with €100m Gareth Bale left on the bench, fell 2-1 at Macedonia.
Bale was left out by Welsh boss Chris Coleman no thanks to ‘severely lacking match fitness’, largely brought about by his move to Real Madrid where he was unveiled on Monday. The unveiling would however get overshadowed by turn of events in the transfer market as clubs rushed to finalise deadline day deals.
And most prominent of all was Arsenal spending almost three times its previous transfer record to secure the signing of German midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42.4m, shocking fans and rivals to silence over the club breaking from their norm and, along with the arrival of Mathieu Flamini days ago and Emiliano Viviano hours before Ozil, making the Gunners title contenders all of a sudden.
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester United eventually completed the signing of Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m, after their chase of Ander Herrera ended in debacle while their loan move for Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao thought to have been finalised turned out otherwise.
Other significant transfers saw Kaka return to AC Milan on a free transfer from Real Madrid, Romelo Lukaku join Everton on loan from Chelsea, as did Gareth Barry from Manchester City while Merseyside neighbours Liverpool completed the signing of Mamadou Sakho from PSG.
The Reds are now considered as possible title contenders as well having started the campaign on a high with three wins from three, all without star player Luis Suarez who has three matches of his 10 match ban for biting left to serve.
Being on the sidelines for his club has however changed little about Suarez who grabbed all the attention for good and bad, scoring both goals in Uruguay’s 2-1 win at Peru in one of four World Cup qualifying matches played in South America, earning a penalty with a dive apparently before getting an opposition defender sent off minutes after.
The win made Suarez the all time leading scorer for Uruguay and brought his country within two points of fourth placed Ecuador that lost by a lone goal at Colombia. Ecuador remain on 21 points after 13 games, five points behind leaders Argentina and second placed Colombia while Chile rose to third on 24 points from 14 matches following a 3-0 win over Venezuela.
In Africa, Ghana reached the final round of World Cup qualification with a 2-1 win at home to second placed Zambia in a Group D match, joining Egypt, Algeria and Cote D’Ivoire that have all made it through with a game to spare.
Six more places in the final round will be filled this weekend from matches across the continent later today, including Malawi’s trip to face Nigeria in a Group F encounter and South Africa needing a win and another result to go their way to reach the final round.
Malawi, with seven points, need an outright win to qualify while the Super Eagles, with nine points, only need to avoid defeat to edge closer to Brazil 2014. A similar scenario to Group F is found in Group B where the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, leading with 11 points, welcome Cape Verde with nine points to Tunis in the final group match there.
More drama however will come from Groups A and E where three countries each in both groups have solid chances of qualifying. In Group E, leaders Congo with 10 points travel to face bottom side Niger Republic while Gabon, with seven points in third place, must defeat second placed Burkina Faso that has nine points and then hope Congo lose at Niger to pick the sole qualifying ticket there.
And in Group A, Ethiopia will be out to seal qualification once and for all with a win at bottom of the table Central African Republic, having earlier sealed qualification with a 2-1 win over South Africa only to be found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in an earlier match against Botswana, thus handing the latter three points and three goals at the Ethiopians expense. Now Botswana and South Africa will both play for a win at Durban and hope Ethiopia lose at CAR.
Rounding off, on this day just last year Canada officially cut diplomatic ties with Iran by closing its embassy in Tehran and ordering the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, over support for Syria, nuclear plans and alleged rights abuses.
You’d have thought Assad got the hint back then but oh no, we’re on the brink of watching Syria get bombarded by the United States while Russia keenly observes the whole mess.
Here’s to a peaceful weekend to us all wherever we are. Hope Nigeria reaches the final World Cup qualifying round. Cheers!