Posts Tagged Rooney

During the Week: Two Wins for D’Tigers, Secret Medical’s Better & More


While the country remains grappled in deadlocked dialogue between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government, sustained poor power supply, uncertainty over the status of Shekau’s heartbeat or lack of, a couple of errant pastors and what not, some of her sportsmen have provided a good bit of reprieve from those… at least for me.

At Cote D’ivoire, the African Basketball Championships (Afrobasket 2013) dunked/tipped off on Tuesday with the host nation easing to a 64-47 win over Algeria in Group A while Senegal came through a close encounter against Egypt 72-70 winners.

Nigeria’s campaign began on Wednesday with a 74-59 win over Mali in Group D while neighbours Cameroun fared even better, defeating Congo 74-43 in the group’s other match. Defending champions Tunisia meanwhile edged Morocco 56-54 in Group B and favourites Angola opened their account with a 75-50 win over Cape Verde in Group C.

Nigeria then recorded a convincing 93-75 win over Congo on Friday night to seal qualification from the group stage for D’Tigers. Cote D’Ivoire and Angolan are pretty much through following wins in their respective second matches on Thursday, with the Ivorians beating Senegal 74-46 while Angola got a 91-73 win over Mozambique.

Also on Thursday, back home, in football, Warri Wolves qualified for the final of the Federations Cup courtesy of a 2-1 win over Akwa United in a replayed semi-final encounter after the initial match on Wednesday was halted due to bad weather with scores level at 1-1.

Wolves will now face Enyimba of Aba that had earlier reached the final thanks to a lone goal win over Lobi Stars, making it the fifth time in eight seasons the Aba Elephants have reached the final of the competition.

Enyimba’s focus however returns to the league, where they travel to face fourth placed Kwara United in Ilorin in one of this weekend’s matches, as both sides hope to sustain their contention for the league title.

Two other teams in direct contention too; champions Kano Pillars and Bayelsa United, come up against Sharks of Port Harcourt and ABS of Ilorin respectively, aiming to take advantage of the result from Ilorin and consolidate their title charge.

Beaten Fed. Cup semifinalists Akwa United and Lobi Stars will also be home this weekend, with Akwa Utd taking on Shooting Stars while Naze Millionaires Heartland will be Lobi’s guests at Makurdi.

Other matches will have Dolphins at home to Rangers in Port Harcourt, Sunshine Stars visiting relegation threatened Wikki Tourists in Bauchi, Elkanemi Warriors hosting Warri Wolves in Maiduguri and Nembe City making the short trip to face Kaduna United.

In England, Manchester City got their season underway in emphatic fashion, handing Newcastle United a 4-0 thumping at the Etihad to go top of the league ahead of city rivals Man. United. And City will look to build on Monday’s thrashing when they pay Welsh newcomers Cardiff City a visit on Sunday.

Before then, Arsenal will get the weekend’s Premier League programme going when they visit Fulham in a London affair on Saturday. The Gunners go into that encounter with fragile confidence following a 3-0 win at Istanbul against Fenerbahçe in a Champions League playoff match.

While Laurent Koscielny’s early injury looked to be the start of another miserable evening, an inspired second half (especially from Aaron Ramsey) saw the Gunners virtually book their place in the group stage with the margin of victory, which came through goals from Kieran Gibbs, Ramsey and a Giroud penalty.

In other first leg UEFA Champions League playoff matches played in midweek, two spectacular, better-after-every-view goals gave Real Sociedad a commanding 2-0 win at the Gerland against Olympique Lyon, PSV Eindhoven and AC Milan played out a 1-1 draw as did Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki at Schalke 04.

Zenit eased to a 4-1 win at Pacos Ferreira of Portugal and Switzerland’s FC Basel won 4-2 at Ludogorets Razgrad but the biggest result came from Kazakhstan where Scottish champions Celtic got shocked in a 2-0 loss to Shakhter Karagandy… that had a sheep ‘sacrificed’ before kickoff.

Down in the Europa League, Marko Marin scored twice either side of a Kevin Gameiro goal for temporal club Sevilla, as the Spaniards came from a goal down to slaughter Slask Wroclaw 4-1 in one of several first leg qualifying matches played on Thursday.

Fomer Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez began competitive life as a Fiorentina striker in good form, scoring in la Viola’s 2-1 win at Grasshoppers while Wilfried Bony continued his in like manner as Swansea City recorded a 5-1 win at home to Petrolul Ploiesti of Romania.

Elsewhere, Udinese lost 3-1 at home Sloban Liberec, Spartak Moscow drew 1-1 at St. Gallen and Roberto Soldado made it three goals in two appearances for Tottenham Hotspur in the 5-0 win at Dinamo Tbilisi, scoring twice for the Londoners on the night.

That win should’ve been the cake on which Willian’s £30m arrival would be the icing. Spurs looked set to land the attacker, weeks after usurping Liverpool for him, until Roman Abramovich whistled by with an extra £2m to hijack that and ensure the Brazilian attacker would now join Chelsea instead, even after having his medical at Spurs; something Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho implied should have been kept secret in an amusing press conference.

Now everyone’s wondering why Chelsea would move for Willian when there’re Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Kevin de Bruyne, Andre Schürrle and dear Victor Moses already choking in that department… I already wrote about that here. Besides, the Brazilian made quite an impression on Chelsea while with Shakhtar Donetsk.

Willian’s imminent arrival at the Bridge, coupled with Mourinho saying the club could bid for Wayne Rooney again afterwards, fills Monday night’s league clash between the Blues and champions Manchester United at Old Trafford with even more expectation than already anticipated.

For Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas, the sentiment would be different, whatever the outcome of their home match against Swansea on Sunday is. With Gareth Bale set to join Real Madrid, Willian would have been an ideal replacement though the Lillywhites will now pursue a deal to bring in Erik Lamela from AS Roma.

The Italian side; that has already parted with Marquinhos and Pablo Osvaldo but brought in Gervinho and Kevin Strootman, begin their league campaign away at Livorno on Sunday while the Serie A season kicks off on Saturday at Verona where last season’s third placed side AC Milan are visitors of newly promoted Hellas Verona.

Champions Juventus, on a high after claiming the Super Cup in emphatic manner, then play at Sampdoria later on Saturday while Napoli host Bologna, Genoa visit Inter Milan and Lazio host Udinese in some of Sunday’s matches there.

In Spain, champions Barcelona visit Malaga on Sunday without Lionel Messi who went off injured in the 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Super Cup. Atletico host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday while city rivals Real visit Granada on Monday.

In France, Monaco went top of the league for the moment after being held to a goalless draw by Toulouse on Friday night, thus failing to equal a record of a newly promoted side winning the opening three Ligue 1 matches, a record held by Toulouse.

Lyon can now regain top spot with a win at home to Reims, while Olympique Marseille or St. Etienne could also go top if they win respective matches against Valenciennes and Lille and other results go their way. Elsewhere, PSG visit newly promoted Nantes in search of a first win this season following two draws so far.

Penultimately in Tennis, draws for the last grand slam of the year sees third seed Andy Murray begin his title defence against Michaël Llodra, well ahead of a potential semifinal against top seed Novak Djokovic; whom Murray beat to win last year’s title.

And unlike before when a Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer match would’ve been the potential second semifinal, both men could potentially face each other a round earlier in the quarterfinal instead; owing largely to Federer dropping to seventh in the lastest world rankings, his lowest rank since 2002.

The women’s draw sees too seed and defending champion Serena Williams starting off her US Open defence against veteran Francesca Schiavone. And barring any upsets, Serena would face second seed Victoria Azarenka in the final in a fortnight.

The US Open will serve off on Monday without world number three Maria Sharapova who withdrew from the slam due to an ‘inflamation’ in her shoulder. Probably what happens when you consider changing your name to ‘Sugarpova’ for the duration of the grand slam.

Finally on this day after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced he’ll retire next year, Thomas Edison patented the motion picture camera in 1891 while in 1981, Mark David Chapman is sentenced 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Beatles singer John Lennon.

And happy birthday to everyone celebrating their birthday today, including Nigerian football striker Joseph Akpala, Portuguese fullback Jose Bosingwa, American comedian Dave Chappelle, Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn and Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom. Deceased former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have been 84 today as well.

Now I’m off to sort my fantasy league team. Have yourself a great weekend then.

Advertisements

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

Era of New Men – 2013/14 Premier League Preview 1


Going into a match, having just come out of a gruelling Christmas schedule with a six match unbeaten run to lie third on the league table, two points off the top, my team fall behind midway through the first half against a team two places off the relegation zone.

Rubbish! And perfect time to pause football manager and feel most inclined to put down this preview of the 2013/14 Premier League season, a season which comes with a sense of the new mixed with the usual, high octane drama we’ve become accustomed to season after season.

Last season, Manchester United reclaimed the league title from the noisy neighbours and as a result went past Liverpool as the team with the most league titles, thanks largely to the goals of Robin van Persie; the last genius gamble of long serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson who finally let go of the thinking cap and chewing gum at the Theatre of Dreams.

Moyes 'guarding' RvP

Inevitably, the new man at the helm will be banking on the flying Dutchman in his quest to begin a reign as Fergie’s successor on a high, off what has been a turbulent run up to the season, no thanks to speculation on Whine Rooney’s future at the club as well as failed bids for Barcelona duo Thiago Alcantara (who opted to join his former boss Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich) and Cesc Fabregas who ‘decided to stay put’ as well as for his former boy Leighton Baines.

That leaves David Moyes with pretty much the same squad that came from behind on numerous occasions to win the league. Only difference now from then is, can Moyes’s charisma evoke that similar spirit Fergie was always conjuring from his players on their way to a 20th crown last season?

Having gone fruitless years being a pain in the a.k.a.-donkey of the bigger clubs while at Everton, the expectation is that having a better squad and much better budget at his disposal now would make a ‘better’ manager of him. His ability to make the best out of what he has and potential to be at the helm for long – stability – is what got him the job and what is hoped would ensure sustained success at Old Trafford.

But his failure to land transfer targets however, point to an inferior character incapable of commanding a presence, a respect where it matters. It certainly cannot be at the level of Fergie’s but it right now is quite far from convincing even most fans of the club that Moyes is the ideal man for the job.

As a result, rivals for the league title, swirling around as sharks would at the presence of blood, have made their moves and all that’s left now is for them to go for the kill and take the league title from the Red Devils.

First shark in the tank is Manchester City that finished second last season, having failed to replicate the drive which led the club to a most dramatic title win minutes after Man. United thought the title was theirs in 2012. Hence, the hierarchy at the Etihad relieved Roberto Mancini of his job and replaced him with seasoned Chilean tactician Manuel Pellegrini.

Negredo, Jovetic and Navas

A number of players have also been added to the squad there, with Fernandinho joining from Shakhtar Donetsk, quickfeet Jesus Navas from Sevilla, followed later from same club by striker Alvaro Negredo, with Montenegrin forward Stefan Jovetic arriving from Fiorentina some time between the two Spaniards.

Fernandinho’s arrival gives the spine of City’s midfield a bit more dynamism to the one already provided by Yaya Toure. Javi Garcia never got going last season and with Jack Rodwell still in the mix of the hustle to be Toure’s starting partner in midfield, it’s looking like it’ll be a long season for Garcia.

Upfront, Pellegrini has an enviously potent forward line consisting of Negredo and Jovetic joining Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko, with support over the season from Fernandinho and Navas joining a midfield already rich with Yaya Toure, Silva, Samir Nasri, James Milner and Javi Garcia… not to forget Rodwell and Scott Sinclair who may leave the club on loan for this season.

However, Man. City’s main failing last season was the defensive lapses that brought about a number of unexpected losses, an issue that should not be a bother this season after all if the goals are regular from the wealthy choice of forwards he’s assembled. Otherwise, Pellegrini’s got a coming headache.

Having captain Vincent Kompany and the rest of the back line fit and in form (Joe Hart’s bipolar form comes to mind here) all season would be crucial to Pellegrini’s main test as new manager, which will not necessarily be how well he performs in the league, as he could lead City to a third place finish and still be regarded a success based on how well he does in the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup, especially in the former where the real test is.

Man. City’s embarrassing displays in the last two European seasons pose a threat to their domestic ambition. Doing well in Europe could hamper their league performance and vice versa. Pellegrini’s job will therefore be to strike a right balance in the Premier League and Champions League or end up only delivering what Mancini could to the oil money, unsatisfactory success.

From the blue side of Manchester to London’s, a shark swirling about Moyes, also with a new man at the helm but, unlike the previous two clubs, a man who is returning to familiar terrains.

Chelsea have satisfied the yearn for European success unlike City, and in fact won the Champions League and Europa League in successive years. The Premier League, last won 2009/10, will be the main goal at Stamford Bridge and Jose Mourinho knows all to well how to go about winning it.

Mourinho during his first Chelsea spell flanked by Lampard and Terry

He was the one who won the Blues a first league title in half a century, going right ahead to retain that title the following season. Now armed with more experience from Inter Milan and Real Madrid along with a diabetic wealth of choice in players, without forgetting his undying love of life in the Queen’s most pretigeous league, Mourinho and Chelsea are the genuine favourites to win the league and break the recent hold of Manchester on the title.

Fernando Torres may not have the chance to be the undoing of Chelsea’s title quest, even though I feel he’s been improving in front of goal lately. Not to say he’s close to his old lethal self but… he’s been improving. And if indeed he falls short again, there’s Demba Ba. The Senegalese however has a prone to going on a drought in the second half of the season following a flourishing first half. What then? Hello Romelo Lukaku.

If there is a set of players highly motivated to prove a point this season, the Belgian striker’s name would be at the top of that list. The imposing young striker left good memories from his loan spell last season at West Bromwich-Albion and has looked good in front of goal this preseason for the Blues.

And with a creative force led by Juan Mata that also comprises Eden Hazard and Oscar, along with Victor Moses and new boys Kevin de Bruyne and Andre Schurlle, the problem for Chelsea won’t be the number of chances created but the number of those taken. Who Mourinho picks as the man with the task to convert those chances will be key to Chelsea’s success this season.

Among the three teams written of in this piece, Chelsea (much to my biased side’s dismay) are favourites for the league title based on the facts that Mourinho knows the league well enough and he is the sort of manager who can get his team to grind out the needed results at crucial stages of the season.

Besides, the Chelsea squad doesn’t seem as one on the brink of tearing apart, unlike City where four internationals are vying for two striking spots, if not one (depending on Pellegrini’s choice of tactics) and the duo of Yaya Toure and David Silva seem untouchable in midfield. As for United, they are title contenders simply because of van Persie. One bad injury… it’s either Rooney or the little pea step up in the Dutchman’s absence or it’s over.

The rest of the league? There’s Arsenal to lead them, followed in no particular order by Swansea City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. I’ll rather write about them in another post, a sequel if you may. But right now, I’ll finish my match on football manager… whose makers by the way have announced and released screenshots of FM14. Exciting times.

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: