Posts Tagged rafael nadal

Over the Weekend: Januzaj on the Double, Nadal’s Number One (Anyway) and More


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.

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Over the Weekend: Moyes IN, Nadal, Bolt Ease to Victory and More


The European football season is finally coming to life, bringing an end to enduring so many week(end)s of making do with football from the FIFA Confederations Cup, the cadet European Championships and the Women’s European Championships even, for those of us feeling that deprived.

Not any longer, as the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 season kicked off over the weekend just as the Community Shield, the curtain raiser to the Premier League season, was contested for between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic on Sunday at Wembley. And it took all of six minutes for Robin van Persie to put the Red Devils in front and by so doing, reiterate the fact of his importance to the club’s, and new manager David Moyes’s success or otherwise this season.

The Dutchman underlined that fact with a second goal just before the hour mark of what was a largely underwhelming 2-0 win over a Wigan side now of the Championship and starting life after manager Roberto Martinez who is now at Everton. Yes, United could have done a whole lot better but as has been the mantra in competitive matches, getting the win is what matters and how it’s got is secondary.

Ask PSG, that would’ve paid a million over the asking price if there was one on offer for a win at Montpellier in the season opener of Ligue 1. The filthy rich, expensively assembled overwhelming favourites to win the league Parisians instead settled humbly for a 1-1 draw at the club that upset the odds in 2012.

Remy Cabella’s 10th minute goal put Montpellier ahead while Maxwell, of all players in PSG’s firepower, equalised for the visitors on the hour mark. The other billionaire club on the contrary started off with a win though for long it seemed Monaco would start off in similarly tipid manner as their money league rival.

Goals in the 82nd and 87th minute from Rivelliere and Radamel Falcao (1-0 Cavani, yes it’s on in case you didn’t know) however gave Monaco a 2-0 win at French Cup holders Bordeaux. The principality club now share fourth spot with fellow newcomers to Ligue 1 FC Nantes that also won 2-0 at home to Bastia on Saturday.

Elsewhere, likely title contender Olympique Lyon got the biggest win of the weekend in a nice 4-0 thrashing of Nice, Olympique Marseille lie third following a 3-1 win at newcomers Guingamp, Lille won by a lone goal at home to Lorient as did St. Etienne, that began life without Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang, away at Ajaccio.

St. Etienne probably would be joint leaders with local rivals Lyon if the Gabonese striker was still with them, instead he was in Germany helping last season’s Bundesliga runner-up Borussia Dortmund to a big 4-0 win at Augsburg, scoring a hattrick on his league debut for Jurgen Klopp’s side with Robert Lewandowski putting aside off season squabbles to smash home the fourth from the spot after assisting Aubemayang to his third.

The biggest win of the weekend however came from the capital where Eintracht Frankfurt, one of last season’s surprise performers, crumbled to a 6-1 demolition at newly promoted Hertha Berlin. The other newcomer to the Bundesliga, Braunschweig played well but were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Title holders Bayern Munich got their campaign underway on Friday with a routine 3-1 win at home to Borussia Monchengladbach, before sending out a ‘second string’ side to record a 4-1 win on Sunday with Mario Gotze marking his return from injury with a brace there.

Elsewhere, Klaas Jan Huntelaar got himself an early birthday present after netting a brace in Schalke’s 3-3 draw at home to Hamburg, Bayer Leverkusen got a 3-1 win at home to Freiburg, Wolfsburg lost 2-0 at Hannover 96, Stuttgart lost 3-2 at Mainz and Hoffenheim played out a 2-2 draw at home to Nurnberg.

While business is only getting started in Europe, matchday 24 matches were played in Nigeria, with Warri Wolves going a point clear at the top of the standings after playing out a 1-1 draw at Lafia against Nasarawa United, a match in which Nasarawa failed to score two penalties. Pillars follow in second place with 40 points after losing 3-1 at Shooting Stars behind closed doors in Ibadan.

Elsewhere, Bayelsa United is now third with 39 points thanks to a 3-0 win over El-Kanemi Warriors, while Enyimba follow in fourth place, a point behind, after getting a 2-0 win over Nembe City in Aba. Other results saw 10-man Kwara United claim a lone goal win at Heartland, Rangers beating Kaduna United 2-1 in Enugu, Dolphins losing 3-0 at Sunshine Stars and Akwa United getting a lone goal win at home to Wikki Tourists thanks to a 93rd minute strike.

Away from football, Rafael Nadal eased to the Rogers Cup title in Montréal, his 48th win in 51 matches this year, with a straight sets 6-2 6-2 demolition of Milos Raonic, a win that will see him rise to third on the new world rankings behind Novak Djokovic, whom he beat in the semis, and Andy Murray who lost in the doubles final there.

In the women’s event of the Roger’s Cup held in Toronto, Serena Williams romped to the title with a 6-2 6-0 win over Sorana Cirstea of Romania, as she prepares for the final grand slam of the year in New York in a few weeks time.

Another woman in fine form is Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare who leapt a distance of 6.99 meters to win a silver medal in the women’s long jump event at the ongoing IAAF World Championships in Moscow on Sunday.

The 24 year old will now turn her focus to the sprints where she is one of the favourites to claim gold in the 100m, having posted a personal best time of 10.78 seconds to win the 100m event at the recent London Anniversary Games, just a blink off the world leading time of 10.77 seconds posted earlier this season by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who also is competing in Moscow.

The biggest headline so far from the Russian capital came from none other than Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt who claimed gold in the men’s 100m final with a relatively slow 9.77 seconds, ahead of American Justin Gatlin and another Jamaican Nester Carter who finished third ahead of two more Jamaicans… yet it’s Americans testing positive for dope. Life.

Great Britain’s Mo Farah beat off the challenge of Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan to win 10,000m gold, and is now preparing for the 5,000m race as he aims to do a double-double as winning the 5,000m would make him world and olympic champion over both distances, a feat which has been achieved only by Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia between 2008 and 2009.

While Farah and Okagbare prepare to etch their names in history, a number of international friendlies will be played during the week including the Mandela Challenge between South Africa and Nigeria’s Super Eagles in Durban on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, England will face rivals Scotland in Wembley as part of events to mark the FA’s anniversary, Portugal will play the Netherlands, Italy face Argentina, Belgium host France in my pick of the bunch, Germany face Paraguay and world champions Spain play against Ecuador.

Wrapping up, the IBM personal computer was released on this day in 1981 while Cleopatra in 30BC committed suicide by letting asps bite the life out of her. Extreme. Unlike her, people such as tennis legend Pete Sampras, Dutch striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Community Shield winner Tom Cleverly and AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli will value life more today as they become a year older.

Many happy returns of the day to them, and to my friends Deji, Lorine and everyone else born today. To every one else, have yourselves a pleasant week ahead.

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Over the Weekend: Elegant Fergie, Mancini Out and More


I’m terribly sorry if the quote comes across as very inappropriate but “It never hits you till it (casket) goes down” was how it hit that last Sunday, in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match at Old Trafford as Manchester United manager, after 27 years at the helm.

The stadium was red throughout, players from both sides minus Judas-tendencies gave the 71 year old a guard of honour and appropriately, goals in each half from Javier Hernandez and Rio Ferdinand’s first in five years ensured the wily Scotsman’s Old Trafford reign ended on a high… complete with the league title presentation that followed the match.

Ferguson, who before the match came out of the tunnel chewing on a gum after greeting members of the youth team, acknowledged the crowd for the years, implored them to support “the new manager” as they’ve done him, praised the team for the league title and convincing manner it was won, honoured Paul Scholes who (finally… for the second time) retired and… didn’t hug or spend more than a moment with Wayne Rooney upon the latter’s turn to receive his championship medal.

The cold treatment resonated around the stadium whose spectators neither booed nor more importantly cheered the 27 year old that handed in a transfer request last week right after Fergie announced he’d retire end of this season.

Indeed Rooney’s timing of his request couldn’t be more off and considering that, unlike the first time when he tried forcing the club’s hands with a transfer request years ago, Rooney no longer is arguably United’s most important player. Would be interesting if he joined Arsenal but the French capital seems a more likely destination at the moment in which all are just rumours.

Word also is that Radamel Falcao is potentially going to play in France next season for principality club AS Monaco, which only returned to the Ligue 1 but is owned by yet another Russian billionaire who, coupled with the (French Football Federation challenged) tax exempt the club enjoys from being based at Monte Carlo, is bent on spending the club’s way to the echelons as the Qataris at Paris St. Germain are doing.

The spending at the French capital yielded some fruit on Sunday night when a lone Jeremy Menez goal early in the second half gave PSG the win it needed at third placed Olympique Lyon to claim its first league title in 19 years and third in its young, 41 year history.

Whether it marks the start of a dominant period; similar to that of Lyon in the last decade, for PSG predicted by many when the money came to town remains to be seen, especially with the fact that PSG’s win makes it a sixth consecutive season a different club has won the Ligue 1 (Lyon in ’08, Bordeaux in ’09, Marseille in ’10, Lille in ’11 and Montpellier’s first ever last season).

All that without mentioning Monaco’s coming to the big boys circle, a coming which would pretty much be stamped with Falcao’s arrival, confirmation of which is reportedly being held back till after Atletico Madrid’s Copa Del Rey final match against Real Madrid which holds on Friday at the Bernabeu.

That match would be fundamental to both Madrid clubs’ season after a disappointing 1-1 draw at Espanyol by Real confirmed Espanyol’s city rivals Barcelona as La Liga champions on Saturday, only for Barça to come from a Falcao goal down to claim a 2-1 win at Atletico on Sunday, rubbing it in on the clubs from the Spanish capital.

Though they may have become much less glamorous than their Spanish capital club counterparts, the Italian capital clubs had contrasting fortunes over the weekend, with Roma managing an eventful goalless draw at AC Milan in a match that saw Francesco Totti get sent off and Mario Balotelli get racially abused by Roma fans; earning the Giallorossi a £42,000 fine.

Lazio meanwhile fared better in getting a third win on the bounce at home to Sampdoria earlier on Sunday. And with both sides to face off for the Coppa Italia in June, sixth placed Lazio went two points clear of Roma with a game to go, but remain two points behind Udinese that occupies the last Europa League spot in fifth place after a 2-1 win over Atalanta.

Further up the table, Napoli sealed second spot and group stage qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League with a 2-1 win over relegated Siena while Fiorentina closed the gap on third placed Milan to two points with a lone goal win over Palermo, a result that sent Palermo down to Serie B while Fiorentina and Milan’s fight for the last Champions League spot will be settled on the final day this weekend.

In England, Tottenham Hotspur occupy that spot thanks to a comeback 2-1 win at Stoke City, which put them three points behind Chelsea that guaranteed a top four finish with same result as Spurs, earned through second half goals midfielder Frank Lampard who as a result became the club’s top scorer of all time with 203 goals.

Chelsea now lead north London rivals Arsenal by four points, though the Gunners can reduce that gap to a point in Tuesday night’s crunch match at home to Wigan Athletic. The Latics visit the Emirates desperately needing a win to keep fading hopes of sinking with the relegation ship alive.

And they go into the match on a skyhigh following a not so shocking 1-0 win over Manchester City to win the FA Cup on Saturday via a 91st minute Watson header. That result inevitably led to the sacking of Roberto Mancini who was relieved on Monday night from his job there. Fair? Arguably, yes.

Whatever the case is, Mancini’s availability adds to an increasing number of high profile managers who will be available for appointments ahead of next season and hence, makes the ‘manager transfer market’ far more interesting to follow than that of the players… moreso after PSG blocked Real Madrid from approaching Carlo Ancelotti to replace Jose Mourinho.

Maybe Los Blancos will turn their focus on Mancini now, or interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez. Certainly not Arsene Wenger whose Arsenal side meanwhile also desperately need a win against Wigan to get back into the top four and keep the chances of qualification to next season’s Champions League entirely in their hands.

Back home, it’s still early days but results from match-day 11 fixtures played over the weekend has seen competition at the top of the Nigeria Professional Football League become intense, with the top 10 clubs separated by just three points.

Kano Pillars remain top of the log with 19 points from 10 matches, despite a crushing 3-0 loss against a ‘motivated’ Enyimba side whose players were last week put on half pay following a string of poor results.

Rangers and Sunshine Stars failed to take advantage of the reigning champions loss at Aba, with Rangers held to a 1-1 draw by fifth placed Bayelsa United in Enugu while Sunshine drew goalless at home to third from bottom ABS of Ilorin.

Ilorin’s bigger club Kwara United recorded a 2-0 win at home to El Kanemi Warriors to rise to fourth on the league table with 18 points, behind Rangers and Sunshine respectively on goal difference while Shooting Stars of Ibadan dropped to ninth with 16 points following a goalless draw at Port Harcourt against Sharks.

Heartland got a 2-1 win at home to Akwa United and is now seventh with 16 points, a point behind Bayelsa United and Nembe City that both occupy fifth spot due to their identical record so far, while Wikki Tourists of Bauchi remain bottom of the league with nine points despite a 1-1 draw at Nasarawa United.

Rounding up, Serena Williams claimed her 50th singles title in tennis after beating world number two Maria Sharapova to win the Mutua Madrid Open barely a fortnight to the French Open Grand Slam in Paris.

While winning that, older sister Venus Williams continued to show signs of “maybe it’s time I do a Fergie” at the Rome Masters as she was beaten in the opening round by Laura Robson.

In the men’s section of the Madrid Open, Rafael Nadal overcame Swiss man Stanislas Wawrinka for his fifth title in seven tournaments since returning from injury, losing in the final of the other two and putting him in the best form possible ahead of his favourite grand slam on the calendar.

And in Formula 1, another Spaniard claimed victory as Fernando Alonso of Ferrari won the Spanish grand prix in his hometown Barcelona ahead of Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen amd Ferrari mate Felipe Massa, while world champion Sebastien Vettel could only finish in fourth ahead of his RedBull mate Mark Webber.

Vettel however still leads the drivers’ championship with 89 points, though Raikkonen is now just four points behind in second place while Alonso managed to cut Vettel’s lead on him to 17 points.

That’s the bit from here. Would be very interesting to see if Arsenal confine Wigan to relegation or Wigan seriously dent Arsenal’s Champions League ambitions in Tuesday night’s highlight match.

Also in Tuesday night, a sulking Manchester City visit Reading while on Wednesday Chelsea will look to win a European cup in successive seasons when they play a Benfica side smarting from a stoppage time 2-1 loss at archrivals FC Porto in the Europa League final, a loss that put Porto a point ahead of Benfica atop the league with a game to play. Painful.

Anyway, here’s to an Arsenal win on Tuesday (a loss would definitely jolt Wenger et al to life but… ), a Benfica win (just because… ) and a productive week to you wherever you are.

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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: 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: League Titles Almost Won, Nadal’s Big Return and More


We know about the Mayan calendar, there is the conventional calendar and there also is the woman’s infamous biological clock, now I am certain there should be a Latic calendar and a Sillywhites’ clock following the weekend’s round of Premier League matches.

Wigan usually get on an ascendency in the closing weeks of a league season and this season’s proving no different, beating Newcastle United 2-1 to make it four wins from its last five matches in all competitions in its quest to avoid relegation (yet again) and (refreshingly) win the FA Cup.

At White Hart Lane however, Tottenham Hotspur’s self-implode clock seems to have begun ticking after former striker Dimitar Berbatov scored the only goal in Fulham’s win there on Sunday. The loss is Spurs’ third successive defeat in a week following those at Liverpool the weekend before and at Inter Milan last Thursday.

And while the entire club would strongly disagree, three losses after a dozen matches unbeaten raises the eerie aura of a close season meltdown Spurs have always experienced following an amazing spell in every season since Martin Jol’s time as manager there. Funny, Jol is now Fulham manager.

The Lillywhites’ next four league matches will have them face Swansea, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea, a run which has the two legs of their Europa League quarterfinal against FC Basel sandwiched.

The next month from this moment can’t be any more crucial and Andre Villas-Boas’ side will either stay true to their seasonal meltdown or break the cycle and at least finish in the top four and make next season’s Champions League.

A win meanwhile would have put Spurs within two points of second place, as Manchester City had lost 2-0 at Everton on Saturday. But now, Spurs have dropped to third on 54 points, with Chelsea now a point in third and four points off second spot after a 2-0 win over West Ham United.

In that match, Demba Ba was shockingly profligate in front of goal, wasting genuine chances for which Fernando Torres would have been crucified for had it been him missing them; not to say Torres would have scored if he was on the pitch.

Nikica Jelavic on the contrary fired home a late second to seal City’s fate at Goodison, while Robin van Persie’s drought continued though Manchester United opened a 15-point lead thanks to a lone Wayne Rooney goal win over relegation threatened Reading.

Van Persie remains three goals behind the league’s leading scorer Luis Suarez who also failed to score as Liverpool fell to a 3-1 defeat at Southampton, a loss that dropped the Reds to seventh with Merseyside rivals Everton replacing them in sixth place.

As a result, Suarez has 22 goals while van Persie has 19… yet a certain Lionel Messi has two more league goals than the Premier League duo, notching his 42nd and 43rd in this season’s La Liga in a 3-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

That win restored the Catalan side’s 13 point lead over second placed Real Madrid that twice came from behind to register a 5-2 win over Real Mallorca while Atletico Madrid stayed a further point adrift with a 2-0 win at Osasuna thanks to a Diego Costa brace.

In Italy, Juventus remained on course to retain the Scudetto title courtesy of a hard-fought 2-0 win at Bologna. Napoli kept the title race barely alive with a 3-2 win to remain nine points adrift while Mario Balotelli scored his sixth in six matches to help AC Milan to a 2-0 win and stay two points behind Napoli.

PSG on its part squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at St. Etienne, yet made its advantage at the top of Ligue Un five points as second placed Oympique Lyon lost at Bastia. And Bayern Munich in Germany won 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen though Borussia Dortmund kept the Bavarians’ lead at 20 points with a 5-1 win over Freiburg.

While European football leagues’ leaders largely have no credible challenge, the top players in Tennis look to have their work well cut out following a run of results that culminated in Rafael Nadal winning the Indian Wells tournament.

The Spanish former world number one came from a set down, the first set he’d lost all tournament, to defeat Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6 6-3 6-4. This is after beating Roger Federer in the quarterfinals before overcoming in-form Tomas Berdych in the semis.

With Del Potro himself beating Andy Murray in the last eight before edging past world number one Novak Djokovic in the semis; ending a run of 22 wins as a result, the level of competition on this season’s ATP tour looks much stiffer.

Same may also be said for the Formula 1 season which started off down under with Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen winning the Australian Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso while reigning champion Sebastien Vettel had to be content with third place after starting the race in pole.

Still too early to conclude how competitive the F1 season will be, unlike last season which saw the opening seven races won by different racers before Vettel sped away with the title.

In Africa, the preliminary stages of both continental club football competitions continued with Nigeria’s representatives ensuring they hold advantages going into their respective return matches in a fortnight.

League champions Kano Pillars recorded 4-1 win over AC Leopards and Rangers drew goalless at Vital’O in the Champions League while in the Confederations Cup, Lobi Stars won 3-1 at home to Muculmana while Heartland could only win 2-1 at home to US Bitam.

Finally… the U20 Africa Youth Championship kicked off in Algeria with Mali’s young Eagles exacting some revenge by beating Nigeria’s Flying Eagles by a lone goal in Group B. Hosts Algeria drew goalless in the opening match against Benin Republic while Ghana fell 2-1 to the young Pharaohs of Egypt.

Nigeria will next face Gabon on Wednesday before wrapping up its group matches against DR Congo on Saturday. Hopefully, the Flying Eagles will recover from the Mali defeat and make it out of the group stage to the semi-finals, which guarantees a spot in the World Championship.

With that, it’s a wrap. Osaze Odemwingie took to twitter yet again to vent his feelings about how he is being treated at the club and more, even though he tweeted he was not trying to force a move away from West Brom. Eitherway, he is set to get some disciplinary actions as the club has stated he will be dealt with “internally”.

Have a stress free week ahead.

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Lose the British Murray


If you’re in need of a publicist, employ the services of a Briton. One preferably working in the Press, and watch yourself be a hovering thought in the consciousness of millions. Whether in a good way or bad, don’t complain, the publicist has nonetheless put you in their consciousness.

The British Press’ use of adjectives, puns, personifications and whatever other literary devices is legendary with Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Linford Christie, the Premier League, their national teams, the female tennis player… a ton of them; deservedly or (mostly) otherwise.

For a long time, Andy Murray has been the subject of their hype machine much so that many would think he’s English when he actually is Scottish. Being labelled “British” makes you that after a while.

After Pete Sampras retired, along with the likes of Andre Agassi, Pat Rafter, Cédric Pioline, Marat Safin and Mark Philippoussis (sadly due to injuries), Jonas Björkman, Richard Krajicek, Lleyton Hewitt, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanišević, Greg Rusedski and of course Tim Henman as time went, Roger Federer became the monopoly.

And it was an annoying monopoly. No one can be that good and be winning the Slams, defending them and defending them again at will but the Swiss did just that.

Then Rafael Nadal started coming of age and steadily became Fedex’s nuisance. The sport became a two-man monopoly; annoying still but oh well, Federer had to work a bit then.

Then came Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Finally… some competition, and one happened to be a Scotsman. A few “upsets” and he became the new Tim Henman. Long live the Queen.

Murray however has always cracked when it comes to winning a Grand Slam and just when you thought he’d win one at the Australian Open last year when he came up against his friend Djokovic… the Serb swept the Brit aside.

By that time, the DjokerNole was no more the new, upcoming nuisance to Roger and Rafa that he was along with Murray… he was the man who would go an entire year with just a handful of defeats; winning 41 consecutive matches in 2011 before Federer reminded us of Djokovic being mortal and ending the year with a 70-6 record.

Djokovic had tailored his game such that he wasn’t playing differently from the times of being an underdog, but had made his temperament a weapon rather than a hindrance.

You see how Roger got into the fourth round when two points away from being massively upset out of SW19 by Benneteau? He was composed. He is always composed.

You see how Nadal wins the French Open as if it was Barcelona in la Liga without Real Madrid? With a rage funneled to the bat rather than the veins and muscles.

Djokovic found his release when he learnt to let go of the clown when on the court. It’s why he’s 8 out of 10 times capable of winning matches from two sets down, he’s become focused.

Murray’s problem, which he can turn to a strength, is the distraction of being British. Years ago I always felt if Tim Henman was anything but British, Sampras and Agassi would’ve had an even tougher time (I consider their time to be tennis’ most competitive) being the top players.

So Murray can either put aside the “first Brit in Wimbledon final in 74 years” distraction aside and try to be a Rafter or live up to being another Henman; who never won a Slam.

I hope Murray wins on Sunday. He’s been through quite a tournament with wins over proven players Nikolai Davydenko, Ivo Karlovic, Marcos Baghdatis, Marin Cilic, David Ferrer and the hard hitting hulk Jo-Wilfred Tsonga on his way to facing Federer who, in my opinion, is the one out of the top three he most likely can defeat.

And the stats back him, for Murray is the only player apart from Nadal to be leading the Maestro on head-to-head record with the score currently 8-7.

And if he does win… you will hate the British press for a fortnight at least! Then we’ll have the Oympics and Premier League to our rescue.

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