Posts Tagged Madrid Open

During the Week: Nigeria Up, Fergie Out and More


Almost a week after the first year rememberance of Rashidi Yekini’s demise, another icon of Nigeria football joined our legendary goalscorer at the great beyond when Joseph ‘Jossy Lad’ Ladipo passed away.

The former Super Falcons coach, who led the female national team to third place at the 2008 Africa Women’s Championship and gold at the 2007 All Africa Games in Algiers died at his Ibadan residence on Thursday, aged 72 following months of treating a heart ailment.

Jossy Lad’s former club Shooting Stars meanwhile won by a lone goal at home to third placed Sunshine Stars in a Nigeria Professional Football League match on Wednesday. The win put 3SC in sixth place on 15 points, behind Kwara United that beat Kaduna United 2-0 in Ilorin on goal difference.

In other results, Bayelsa United defeated Heartland by a lone goal and rose to fourth with 16 points, a point ahead of four teams, while Enyimba drew goalless at Lobi Stars and dropped to 13th with 13 points, prompting the Aba club’s management to put its players on half pay till a marked improvement in results is achieved.

Kano Pillars now top the league on 19 points thanks to a 2-0 win at home to seventh placed Nasarawa United while Rangers remain second on 17 points ahead of Sunshine on goal difference despite their match at Wikki Tourist being postponed in light of Rangers match against CS Sfaxien of Tunisia in the CAF Confeferations Cup on May 19.

Nigerian club football may be experiencing a decline on the continent but Nigeria’s national football team maintained her recent ascendency by rising into the top 30 on the latest FIFA world rankings while Spain maintained top spot ahead of Germany and Argentina.

The Super Eagles now occupy 28th position on the rankings to be Africa’s fourth best team in the world ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup next month in Brazil. The Brazilians on their part remain in 19th place on the rankings, a place behind 1998 world champions France.

England’s national team remain the seventh best nation on the rankings that saw only three changes in the top 20 but attention in the Queen’s country focused more on a knight in the north who finally put down his armour.

It isn’t that his retirement wasn’t ever expected as sooner or later he would have left the job voluntarily or naturally, but Sir Alex Ferguson has been at the helm of Manchester United for quite a long while, even Ryan Giggs hasn’t known another manager in his entire club career.

Hence, the uncertainty that clouded the emotions of most of us when the Scotsman announced he would finally call it a career in management at the end of this season, a United career that spanned 27 years and witnessed a diluge of titles including two Champions League wins and 13 Premier League titles among a cuptail of others, 35 of them.

The uncertainty of emotions mostly stemmed from what Old Trafford would be without SAF, at the dugout infamously chewing on an unfortunate gum, or in the dressing room celebrating success with his many players or demanding they get their shit together in the second half while reducing their thick egos to powder with the hair dryer treatment during half time breaks.

The 71 year old will be missed by adversaries even, which goes a long way to try equating just how much he will be missed by stakeholders of the Red Devils; though some of us are (‘respectfully’) glad he’s finally retired. This brings us to another Scotsman, David Moyes.

After Fergie and M.Sc Econs of North London, the hardly smiling Moyes is the longest serving manager of a Premier League club, which, along with being British (Scottish) and for the sake of the club’s share price on the stock exchange, is basically why Man. United have appointed him as Fergie’s replacement.

Much thought has gone into whether he is the appropriate choice (SAF does have a son managing somewhere, alas!) trophy wise, since he never won a trophy at Goodison Park; or ever, but there’s a huge difference between the red side of Manchester and the blue of Merseyside in favour of the former in every aspect.

But then again, will Moyes be able to live up to the long term stability his appointment has promised and deliver on the trophy front; starting with the defence of a league title next season or will he overwhelmed by the vast resources that’ll be available to him that weren’t at Everton and buckle on the biggest stage like Roberto Mancini has so far done at the blue side of Manchester? Time will tell. Hopefully he’ll have enough of that to get going at OT, although I reckon he’ll win the FA Cup next season.

Whether he will with or without Wayne Rooney is another mystery shrouding Man. United at the moment after it was reported that the English forward handed in a transfer request for whatever reason ranging from Fergie’s retirement to Robin van Persie becoming the team’s focal point.

And following a barrage of far from friendly advices from a number of tweeters, Nike UK athlete Rooney and Nike released statements to clarify that the sportswear manufacturer had requested all athletes on its roster to change their twitter bio to reflect their affiliation with them (Nike), with Rooney going further to state he’d changed his three weeks ago and never had Manchester United on it… but he conveniently didn’t touch on whether he’ll stay or wants to leave the BPL UK club Man. United.

With that still hovering, it is inevitable, like the last time, that a player of Rooney’s calibre is already linked to several clubs. Why people have decided to include Arsenal and initiate a wicked cycle of daydreams, permutations and what not…

… a proper daydream is winning a trophy such as the FA Cup and one Roberto’s Manchester City will aim to win a third title in as many seasons on Saturday when they face another Roberto’s Wigan Athletic side that could be relegated from the Premier League next week yet will play in next season’s Europa League regardless of the final score at Wembley.

It’s a cruel twisted corner the Latics find themselves having lost 3-2 at home to Swansea on Wednesday night and even though he could be forgiven for ‘resting’ players on Saturday ahead of Wigan’s trip to Champions League-chasing and Rooney-interested Arsenal, Martinez will likely field his strongest teams on both crucial days, desperately having Wigan in a perilous all-or-nothing situation with the Europa League being consolation.

Ahead of the FA Cup final, Europa League finalist Chelsea will pay relegation threatened Aston Villa; whose captain Stylian Petrov retired due to Leukemia, a visit in Saturday’s only Premier League match, needing a win to guarantee a top four finish against a Villa side needing a win as well to outrightly guarantee its Premier League status for next season.

Chelsea could have guaranteed a top four finish in Wednesday’s match at home to fifth placed Tottenham Hotspur but Gylfi Sigurdsson’s well made goal won the visitor’s a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw, but handed the top four initiative to the Blues and fourth placed Arsenal.

Fiorentina meanwhile kept up their chase of the last Champions League place in Italy with a lone goal win at city rivals Siena, a result that all but sealed the latter’s relegation to Serie B. La Viola however remain four points behind third placed AC Milan with two games to play after the Rossoneri won 4-0 at already relegated Pescara.

Milan’s city rivals Inter will play no European football next season after a 3-1 loss at home to Lazio on Wednesday, the Nerazurri’s fifth defeat in six matches, ended previously faint hopes of finishing in a Europa League place.

AS Roma’s Europa League hopes took a dent in a lone goal loss at home to Chievo Verona on Tuesday, allowing Lazio rise to sixth place as a result, going above city rivals Roma on goal difference but staying two points behind Udinese that won 3-2 at Palermo to occupy the second Europa League place on the league table in fifth place.

Over in Spain, Barcelona’s title win got delayed yet again following Real Madrid’s 6-2 thrashing of Malaga at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night in a match that witnessed two Malaga players getting sent off, a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty saved only for the Portuguese ace to score his 200th Madrid goal from a freekick four minutes later.

The win put Los Blancos on 80 points after 35 matches, eight points behind Barcelona that has played 34 matches and would finally claim the La Liga title with a win at third placed Atletico Madrid on Sunday regardless of Real’s result at Espanyol on Saturday.

Elsewhere in Madrid, Rafael Nadal’s excellent return to tennis from long term injury continued as he reached the last four of the Mutua Madrid Open with a 4-6 7-6 6-0 win over Spanish compatriot David Ferrer on Friday night, setting up a semi-final match with Spanish wildcard Pablo Andujar who beat Roger Federer’s conqueror Kei Nishikori to reach his first ever ATP tour semi-final.

Sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat world number three Andy Murray in straight sets to set up the other semi-final with Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka who beat Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 6-2 6-7 6-4.

In the women’s section of the Madrid Open, top seed Serena Williams will face Italian Sara Erani while second seed Maria Sharapova will face Ana Ivanovic in the other semi-final.

By Sunday when the final will be played, Sebastien Vettel could have extended his lead atop the Formula 1 drivers’ championship with a podium finish at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, though Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso would fancy his chances there as would Vettel’s RedBull teammate Mark Webber who has a good history in the European leg of the Grand Prix season.

British driver Jenson Button of McLaren however doesn’t fancy his or his team’s chances after declaring that McLaren were a long way off their rivals. Vettel meanwhile beat Alonso to post the fatest time in Friday’s practice session. Starting places on the grid will however be decided later on Saturday.

On that note, it’s a wrap from here. Match to look forward to apart from the FA Cup, Chelsea’s visit of Villa and Tottenham’s trip to Stoke on Sunday is PSG’s trip to third placed Olympique Lyon on Sunday where a win for PSG could win them the Ligue 1 title. The capital club will however need Marseille to drop points against Toulouse to claim the league title for the first time since 1994.

Have a great weekend ahead.

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Over the Weekend: Nigerian Club Football Decay, No More Blue Clay & More


Nigerian club football, as far as this season is concerned, sunk into the abyss of irrelevance over the weekend when her last continental representative got knocked out at the last qualifying round before, by African (CAF) standards, the lucrative group stage.

Needing a score-draw at least to qualify, having played out a goalless draw in the first leg in Enugu a fortnight ago, Rangers fell 3-1 at Recreativo do Libolo of Angola and failed to make the Champions League group stage, barely four months after Sunshine Stars made the semi-final of last season’s edition.

Defending champions Al Ahly, that beat Sunshine on their way to the title last season, made it through to the group stage now with a 2-1 aggregate win over Tunisia’s Bizertin, while Zamalek had Abdoulaye Cisse to thank as his brace, the second being the equaliser two minutes to full time, earned a 2-2 draw for the Cairo club at St. George of Ethiopia and qualification on away goals.

Tunisian giants Esperance also made it through with a lone goal aggregate win over Algeria’s Beja but DR Congo’s TP Mazembe fell short against 10-man Orlando Pirates of South Africa, winning the return home leg by a lone goal but losing to the Bucs 3-2 on aggregate.

The 2011 African champions will be weighed down by a heap of regret from the encounter, having had two penalties either side of the match’s lone goal saved by the Pirates goalkeeper, with the second penalty saved on the 89th minute.

Scant consolation for the Congolese side, along with Enugu Rangers and the other clubs that lost in the final qualifying round of the Champions League, is the drop to the CAF Confederations Cup they’ll make, as is the case in Europe.

England meanwhile still awaits who her third and possible fourth representatives at next season’s UEFA Champions League would be after the trio of clubs chasing those two spots won their respective Premier League matches by a lone goal over the weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur first replaced Arsenal in fourth place and went level on 65 points with then third placed Chelsea, thanks to a late Gareth Bale strike in the win at home to the Welshman’s former club Southampton.

Another ex-saint however sent Spurs back to fifth and Arsenal up to third on 67 points, as Theo Walcott’s goal 20 seconds into the match at already relegated Queens Park Rangers put the Gunners two points clear of their top four London rivals for a day.

The initial third to fifth league table positions from the start of the weekend was restored on Sunday evening as a late Phil Jones own goal (initially awarded as a Juan Mata goal) gave Chelsea a crucial win at league champions Manchester United.

Interestingly, the win at Old Trafford, coupled with Manchester City’s goalless draw at Swansea City, put Chelsea four points behind the dethroned league champions with both Blues having three matches left to play.

Man. City could however seal second spot with a win on Tuesday night at home to West Brom, as long as Chelsea fail to win Wednesday night’s pseudo-Cup final at home to Tottenham, where a win for the latter would draw them level with Chelsea and drop Arsenal to fifth, a point behind, all with two matches to play then… thus presenting a real and dramatic possibility of Arsenal not making the Champions League for the first time in the Wenger era.

However, even if Spurs do win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, one can hear many a gooner go “nehh, it’s Spurs! They’ll still f*** it up!”… time will tell.

That time is all of a sudden running out for Fulham, Sunderland, Newcastle United, Southampton, Norwich City and Wigan Athletic in their quest to avoid the last reservation in a sinking relegation cruise that has QPR and Reading comfortably lodged in.

Fulham did itself no favour by losing 4-2 at home to Reading, a result that leaves the Cottagers on 40 points and five points off the relegation zone, while Newcastle United drew goalless at West Ham United to find themselves three points off that reservation with 38 points.

Aston Villa attained 40 points, behind Fulham and Stoke City on goal difference, thanks to a 2-1 win at Norwich that as a result dropped within three points of the drop zone, ahead of Newcastle on goal difference.

And with Sunderland, that got blown 6-1 by Villa last Monday, just two points off Wigan Athletic that currently occupies the unwanted 18th position, Callum McNamara’s late winner for Wigan in the 3-2 win at West Brom could prove a most decisive goal just because Wigan have a game in hand which they play on Tuesday at home to Swansea that is winless in six matches.

A win for Wigan in that match and they go level in points with but ahead of Norwich and Newcastle on the table with two matches to play, potentially setting up an eight-way scramble from the last relegation reservation, which would be far more interesting and dramatic than the tussle for top four places.

Probably would be as dramatic as the final day in the Championship (the teams above are fighting against to drop into) which saw Hull City gain promotion to the Premier League thanks to a 2-2 draw with already promoted Cardiff City, finishing two points ahead of Watford City that would have got that promotion had it won its match at home to Leeds United, instead of losing 2-1.

Watford instead will go through the playoffs now to gain promotion, along with Brighton, Wilfried Zaha’s Crystal Palace and Leicester City that finished in the last playoff spot ahead of Bolton Wanderers on goal difference and ahead of Nottingham Forest, where they won 3-2 thanks to a late goal, by a point.

Elsewhere in Europe, Juventus won its 29th Serie A title after a lone goal win over Palermo, while Napoli consolidated on second spot with an Edinson Cavani inspired 3-1 win over Inter Milan and AC Milan won by a lone goal to open a four point lead in third place over Fiorentina that lost to a lone stoppage time Osvaldo goal at home to fifth placed AS Roma.

Roma’s city rivals and Coppa Italia final opponent, Lazio demolished visiting Bologna 6-0 with 34 year old Miroslav Klose scoring an incredible five goals, but remain in seventh, three points behind Roma with three matches to play.

In Spain and France, Barcelona and PSG were made to wait another week before claiming their respective league titles with Barcelona made to (was going to write “work hard” but… ) call on Messi who scored twice and hit the crossbar within 10 minutes of coming on (seems so unfair) to secure a 4-2 win over Real Betis to restore their 11 point advantage over Real Madrid that won 4-3 at home to Real Valladolid with four matches to play. All in a half hour’s job for the reigning world player of the year.

Alex meanwhile earned 10-man PSG a 1-1 draw at home to Valenciennes, leaving Les Parisiens needing a win in this weekend’s visit of third placed Olympique Lyon, or a draw there and a loss to Olympique Marseille to claim a first league title since 1994. That’s 19 years Arsenal fans, be calm and take note.

In Germany, a dress rehearsal of the UEFA Champions League saw Borussia Dortmund held to a 1-1 draw by Bayern Munich in a match Manuel Neuer saved a Robert Lewsndowski penalty while Rafinha got sent off following two yellow cards in as many minutes, sparking an amusing melee between camps of both sides on the sidelines. May 25 better be even more interesting.

While Bayern and Dortmund’s title match is still to come, Wladimir Klitschko and Floyd Mayweather retained theirs in the boxing ring, overcoming challenges from Francesco Pianeta and Robert Guerrero respectively.

For Klitschko, the Ukrainian won after knocking his former sparring partner Pianeta out a third time on the night in the sixth round and claim a 51st win via knockout in 60 professional fights.

For Mayweather, the money man retained his title by an unanimous decision that saw all three judges give him the fight with a count of 117-111 against a previously unbeaten Guerrero, extending his own unbeaten record in boxing to 44 wins and reportedy earning at least $32.5m from the fight.

The prize money at the Madrid Open in tennis isn’t anywhere near that figure, but some of the sports’ top players will compete at the clay surface tournament that returns to conventional red clay after unsuccessfully experimenting with blue clay last year.

Women’s number one player Serena Williams along with Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic, Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber are through to the second round there while Caroline Wozniacki and Li Na however got knocked out in straight sets by Yaroslava Shvedova and 18 year old qualifier Madison Keys respectively.

In the men’s, Fernando Verdasco and Radek Stepanek have made it to the second round while the top seeds; the Djokovices, Federers and Nadals, will serve their campaign off from later today.

And that’s game, set, match with today’s post. I’m not even going to front, Chelsea has to beat Tottenham on Wednesday night for Arsenal’s sake.

Have a great week ahead; except you’re Tottenham. 😐

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