Posts Tagged Novak Djokovic

Over the Weekend: Brazil on Fire, Pirelli’s Bad Tyres, Goodbye Oliha & More


The Brazilian national team have inadvertently granted their government massive reprieve by winning the Confederations Cup to appease a population discontent with the government; mostly triggered by a recent increase in bus fares and sustained by the amounts spent to ensure the South American nation successfully host next year’s World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016.

For the moment, the manner of the Samba Boys’ 3-0 humbling of Spain, achieved through a Fred brace early in each half either side of a Neymar striker, will be remembered for a long time in the same manner Bayern Munich’s masterclass over Barcelona in the semifinal of last season’s UEFA Champions League is remembered.

Worthy of being remembered as well is the third place match between Italy and Uruguay, a match of three well taken freekicks which the Italians eventually won 3-2 on penalties after scores was level at 2-2 after regular and extra time.

Victory for the Italians was ensured by Juventus stalwart Gianluigi Buffon who saved three penalties in the shootout and redeem (or more like reaffirm) his status as a legendary goalkeeper, which was brought to question in regular time by Edinson Cavani’s brace for the reigning South American champions.

Cavani’s goals, including a 78th minute peach of a freekick to get Uruguay on level terms again, would certainly tempt Napoli president De Laurentis to increase his €63m valuation of the striker who has been linked to Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s value could’ve increased as well if he wasn’t on the books of Championship side QPR… but not for long if reports that he is Arsenal bound are to be followed. Heading to north London with him is midfielder Paulinho, but to the White Hart Lane side of NL, whose fans would surely be highly expectant of his arrival following a good display at the Confederations Cup.

Already highly expectant are Barcelona fans of Neymar who put in another good display to further more debunk arguments that he may be a tad bit overrated. Imagine a front trio there with him and Pedro just behind Lionel Messi, ably supported by Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets or Fabregas… or Thiago Alcantara who basically snubbed Manchester United via Instagram on Saturday (damn, that’s just cold blooded!).

In danger of getting snubbed as well, unless they find a fix to the mess of rubber made in Formula 1 is Pirelli, whose tyres ensured the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was eventful to the extreme while costing championship leader Sebastien Vettel valuable points.

It all started in the practice sessions when Sergio Perez suffered a punctured tyre. Then Mark Webber damaged his front wing at the very start of race proper, debris from which may have caused home favourite Lewis Hamilton’s left rear tyre getting destroyed in the eighth lap to have him relinquish his lead, followed by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who suffered exactly same fate at same area on the track as Hamilton in the 11th lap… followed soon after by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne with the same puncture.

Vergne later became the first driver to retire on the day after 37 laps and was soon followed out by Vettel after the German driver lost his gearbox while in the lead. Then Perez’s terrible weekend came to an end as he had to retire from the race with a tyre failure in the 46th lap.

Hamilton recovered very well from last position to tussle for third spot and a podium finish with Fernando Alonso, but eventually settled for fourth. Massa did well too to come from well behind and finish in sixth, just behind a seemingly weary Kimi Raikkonen.

In the end, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg (friends with Lukas Podolski) won the dramatic race, holding off the late charge of Red Bull’s Webber by 0.7 seconds while Alonso finished third after he usurped Raikkonen.

As for the tyre drama, blame is in fact being pointed at the teams after it was revealed that three teams had voted against Pirelli bringing in new tyres made specifically for the Silverstone track, tyres which were secretly tested with the Mercedes team earlier in the season, around the time David Moyes was revealed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United.

The Scotsman officially begins work at Old Trafford today; as does Manuel Pellegrini down the road at the Etihad, with the transfer situation with Wayne Rooney his prime concern for the moment. The Red Devils also have had a £12m bid for Leighton Baines rejected by their manager’s former club Everton.

To ease the bit of headache for him on the transfer front and in the backroom where Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen have left is the appointment of Steve Round as his assistant along with a couple more entrants to OT from his backroom staff at Goodison Park.

Wrapping up, it is sad to hear of the death of former Super Eagles midfielder Thompson Oliha, aged 44. Until his death, Oliha was the head coach of the Kwara Football Academy (KFA) in Ilorin, Kwara State. May he soul rest in peace, amen.

On that note, it’s a wrap from me. Looking forward to Nigeria’s U20 national team take on their Uruguayan counterparts on Tuesday in a second round match at the ongoing World Youth Championship in Turkey. All the best to the Flying Eagles there, vengeance must be attained following the Super Eagles’ loss to Uruguay at the Confederations Cup last week.

Before then Wimbledon resumes today with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray scheduled to play against veterans Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny respectively.

On this day in 1903, the first Tour de France began and today, the 100th edition of cycling’s most prestigeous competition rode off. Also on this day in 1881, the world’s first international telephone call was made between St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada and Calais, Maine in the United States. Today however, my sister in the bedroom could call me; just right there in the living room, on my mobile when a simple yell of my name would suffice… if I’m bothered enough to answer.

Today also marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Abramovich era at Chelsea, the birthday of former American athlete Carl Lewis (52), American rapper Missy Elliott (42), former Dutch internationals Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooij (both 37)and actress Liv Tyler from the Lord of the Rings fame (36).

Late Princess Diana was born today in 1961 as was Carol Chomsky, deceased wife of foremost linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky. And today marks the ninth anniversary of the death of actor Marlon Brando.

Have a great week ahead wherever you are, mine began yesterday with my brother’s birthday. Many happy returns to him and to everyone else celebrating this week. Cheers!

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Over the Weekend: Rabid Biting, Dangerous Driving and More


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.

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Over the Weekend: Barça Slip, AFCON for Sleep & Sharapova Rips


You know a team is very good when its lost matches make the headlines and Barcelona, following an unbeaten streak in the Spanish Primera Division from April 2012… 10 months, finally succumbed to defeat.

The manner of the Catalan cruise control footballers’ loss however was the surprising bit, letting go of a two-goal lead earned through goals from Zeus incarnate and Pedro in the opening 25 minutes and losing 3-2 at Real Sociedad.

Indeed Sociedad’s remarkable comeback, completed with an injury time winner, was much aided by Gerard Pique’s sending off just before the hour mark and Javier Mascherano’s ‘zzzz’ moment soon after but even a man down, Barça usually wouldn’t crumble as it did on Saturday night.

But like I said, the very good teams have their losses making headlines hence, with Barcelona now without a win in two successive matches – having been held by 10-man Malaga to a 2-2 draw in the quarterfinal first leg of the Copa Del Rey – it is only natural that ‘something is wrong’.

At least Atletico Madrid would hope so, taking advantage of Sociedad’s unlikely win with a 2-0 win at home to Levante. Unfortunately, leading scorer Radamel Falcao limped off ‘hamstrung’ to leave the task of cutting Barça’s eight-point lead at the top to Adrian and co.

As for Barça, I honestly hope Malaga actually get the required result in the return leg, just so sanity can be within the reach of Real Madrid that, in the event of Malaga not getting the required result, would have to play three El-Clasicos along with the two legs against Manchester United in the Champions League at a stretch.

Besides, it is too early in the year for more recycled reasons, arguments and analysis of who’s ultra-better between Zeus incarnate and Cristiano Ronaldo… Achilles if you may… right? WRONG! Who am I kidding? I hope Malaga get thrashed out of the Copa so Barça sets up that fortnight of godly football to look forward to, something Madrid would likely prefer to avoid!

AFCON 2013 Begins
Before then we may have endured an insufferable African Cup of Nations. Hopefully we wouldn’t but following the opening matches on Saturday, it did seem like it would be an absolutely dull Nations Cup as both Group A matches between hosts South Africa & debutantes Cape Verde and Morocco against Angola later on ended in goalless draws.

It flooded us with dark memories of Mali 2002 where goalless draws were the full time scores in about 33% of group stage matches, with a further 30% ending in dire lone goal wins; that’s seven goals scored in 15 out of 24 group stage matches! Never again oh Jesus, please!

And matchday Two on Sunday livened matters a bit, with DR Congo coming from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw against Ghana in Group B’s curtain raiser, while Mali left it rather late before edging Niger Republic by… a lone goal. Typical ’02 behaviour.

Underdogs Nigeria meanwhile get their campaign underway with a clash with Burkina Faso in a Group C match, preceded by Ethiopia squaring up to defending champions Zambia. Hopefully, the goals will come in these matches to further light up this Nations Cup.

Otherwise it would be just as the Premier Soccer League of the host nation is, good looking playing surfaces at the stadia along with cool ads for the competition, which itself is far below the standard it is packaged as.

Sharapova, Djoker Stay Unstoppable in Australia
On another continent down under, in another sport, the billings are being lived up to with some stunning displays coming from the players vying for the first grand slam of the year at the Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova at this moment looks the sure bet to get the slam in the female section, easing into the quarterfinals with a 6-1 6-0 stroll past Kirsten Flipkens.

That result meant the pretty Russian has won all four of her matches so far in straight sets, winning five of eight sets contested to love and losing just five games in those eight sets played so far.

Such beastly form from a beauty who will next face compatriot Ekaterina Makarova, after the 19th seed defeated fifth seed Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-4 in her last 16 encounter.

Over in the men’s draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic needed five hours to overcome talented Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka in five sets, winning the deciding fifth set 12-10 and setting up a last eight match with Tomas Berdych.

The epic win was the Djoker’s 18th consecutive win at the Australian Open and keeps him on course to become the first player in the Open era to win three successive Australian Open titles. Just three more matches DjokerNole!

Before then, two French men went at each other for almost five hours before Gilles Simon overcame Gael Monfils and set up what likely will be the end of his time down under in the hands of world number three Andy Murray.

Roger Federer continues to be a maestro on the court but world number four Rafael Nadal watches on, probably with a tight fist as he edges closer to his return from injury.

Bavarians March On, Red Devils Freeze Up
The Bundesliga resumed from its winter break with Bayern Munich maintaining its charge towards an umpteenth league title in a routine 2-0 win over bottom side Greuther Fürth while Bayer Leverkusen kept pace, albeit nine points adrift, with a 3-1 win over fourth placed Eintracht Frankfurt.

Champions Borussia Dortmund remain in third place, a dozen points off the top, but back in good form after demolishing Werder Bremen with five unreplied goals away from home.

In Spain, Real Madrid posted the same result from their trip to Valencia with Achilles and Mary’s Angel getting a brace each after Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring… and all five goals came in the first half.

With Barcelona losing, that display left the Merengues 15 points behind their bitter rivals still while still trailing their neighbours Atletico by seven points. Jose Mourinho’s getting the boot at this rate.

In Italy, Juventus got a 4-0 win with Paul Pogba scoring a spectacular brace to help Lega Calcio’s Old Lady open a five point gap on Napoli that drew 1-1 at Fiorentina and Lazio that could only manage a 2-2 draw at lowly Palermo.

Thankfully for those two (Napoli and Lazio), Inter Milan played a 1-1 draw at Roma in Sunday’s late kick-off, leaving Nerazzurri on 39 points, four points behind the sky blue duo and thus, allowing city rivals AC Milan come within five points of them after a 2-1 win at home to Bologna.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 19th league goal helped PSG return to the top of France’s Ligue Un with a lone goal win at Bordeaux, with Lyon dropping to second on goal difference after a goalless draw with Evian while Marseille is now a point behind in third place.

Finally from the Premier League, Robin van Persie’s 18th league goal proved not enough as fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur stole a point with a stoppage time equaliser at home to the Red Devils on Sunday.

That saw United’s lead at the top cut to five points as a David Silva brace had given champions Manchester City a 2-0 win at home to Fulham on Saturday.

Chelsea came out 2-1 victors over misfiring and misguided neighbours Arsenal, Loic Remy scored on his debut but had to settle for a point in QPR’s 1-1 draw at West Ham United and Osaze Odemwingie rescued a point for West Brom in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Midlands rival Aston Villa, before becoming a father on Sunday.

On that cheery note, it’s a wrap. Nigeria plays Burkina Faso later today, the first time I’ll see the Super Eagles play in months while the Australian Open enters its home run this week.

Hopefully, the DjokerNole gets the male title while Radwanska is also looking in championship form in the female section, which looks set for a competitive semi-final as defending champion Victoria Azarenka is also through to the last eight.

Have a productive week ahead. Till Saturday.

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