Posts Tagged serena williams

Over the Weekend: To be King of New York, Cape Verde Stay Upsetting Odds and More


Now I’m pleasantly confused about who exactly we should address the king of New York, the California rapper Kendrick Lamar who crowned himself recently and stirred an uproar of responses or the tennis player who will win this year’s US Open? Modern era game of thrones.

Anyway. Rafael Nadal will come up against Novak Djokovic in the final of the last grand slam of the year, a fitting match-up between a player in arguably the best form of the season compared to others and unbeaten on the hard courts this year opposite the game’s top ranked player appearing in his fourth successive final at Flushing Meadows.

In the women’s section, Serena Williams already came through a tough two sets before easing past Belarusian Victoria Azarenka to claim her fifth US Open title and 17th career grand slam, one title short of equalling the haul of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert as she further cemented her place among the tennis greats.

Another who is on a firm course to achieving greatness in his sport is Sebastien Vettel, following the RedBull driver’s Italian Grand Prix win at Monza; his sixth Grand Prix win of this Formula 1 season and 32nd of all time – equal with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso.

Alonso on his part finished second in the race and afterwards expressed his happiness (more like content) at finishing in the position and you can’t blame him really, seeing as Vettel now holds a cushy 53 point lead on him in the drivers’ championship table; a lead that basically gives Vettel a two-race lead on his nearest rival with seven races to go.

The race to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Africa meanwhile is down to two matches following the final group matches of the penultimate qualifying round played across the continent over the weekend, with a few ‘minnows’ making the the final qualifying round at the expense their more established rivals.

One was Ethiopia that came from behind to claim a 2-1 win at the Central Africa Republic and qualify ahead of South Africa. The Bafana Bafana were on course at half time of both matches but eventually fell short of qualification despite a 4-1 win over Botswana.

Ethiopia was joined in the final qualifying round by 2013 Nations Cup crowd favourites Cape Verde, who completed a massive turnaround of fortunes in their qualifying campaign, culminating in the 2-0 defeat of Tunisia right in Tunis.

Also through is Nations Cup runners-up Burkina Faso and Nations Cup holders Nigeria. Burkina Faso went through with a lone goal win over Gabon, a result that allowed the Burkinabes leapfrog Congo that could only draw 2-2 at Niger, while Nigeria defeated Malawi 2-0 in Calabar.

Nearby at Port-Harcourt, Akwa United was held to a 1-1 draw by home side Sharks in a Nigeria Professional Football League match on Sunday, a result that left both sides still in the botyom half of the league on 41 and 40 points respectively.

Elsewhere, goals in the closing 15 minutes got Enyimba a 3-0 win over Lobi Stars in Aba, allowing the Elephants with 49 points to take over second spot on goal difference from Bayelsa United that lost by a lone goal to Heartland in Owerri.

League leaders Kano Pillars remain two points clear despite losing 2-1 at Nasarawa United, Kwara United fell to sixth no thanks to a 2-0 loss at Kaduna United while Enugu Rangers returned to the top half of the league in ninth place with 42 points thanks to a lone goal win over Wikki Tourists.

The Stars’ match between Sunshine and Shooting; both in dim league positions however, was meanwhile called off with Sunshine leading 2-1. The League Management Company tweeted the reason for the match not being completed as security issues while from another medium, heavy rain was cited as reason.

Might as well call it a wrap with today’s round up, or start to at least. Happy that Tokyo was named as host city for the 2020 Olympics, the penultimate of a series of major sporting events that will be hosted in the middle or far east from 2014 to 2022.

Sochi in Russia will host next year’s Winter Olympic Games (and Paralympics by default) before passing the torch to Pyeongchang in South Korea for the 2018 edition(s), same year Russia get to host the FIFA World Cup. Then it’s Tokyo in 2020 with the Olympics (and the Paralympics by default as well) followed by Qatar with the much debated 2022 FIFA World Cup…

… and I’m on the winter World Cup side of the debate, even though hosting it in summer as usual could be to the African teams’ advantage but footballers’ health should come first. Footballers such as Oscar, Alex Song and Luka Modric who will be in their early or mid-thirties when the 2022 mundial kicks off.

The trio, along with American goalkeeper Brad Guzan, are born on this day, as is Heath Ledger’s acting widow Michelle Williams, Canadian singer Michael Bublé and Parma manager Roberto Donadoni. Happy birthday to them and everybody else celebrating today and tomorrow (good friend Mrs. C. C. Muonagor and writer Chimamanda Adichie). Best wishes!

Finally, on this day, in 1791 Washington, D.C. is named after President George Washington, the Dubai Metro, which is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula, is ceremonially inaugurated at exactly 9:09:09p.m. in 2009 and in the year 337, Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans I succeed their father Constantine I as co-emperors hence, the Roman Empire is divided between the three Augusti.

Goodbye.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Chic Fight Ahead of Wimbledon, Poyet Fired Live in London and More


I’m sorry for being away for long from here, however credible my reasons are. Between the top two women’s tennis players meanwhile, Serena Williams apologised to Maria Sharapova… also without stating exactly what she was apologising for.

Williams had earlier made comments concerning an unnamed tennis player – presumed Sharapova – and a man with a black heart; Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov, comments which Sharapova deemed uncalled for from a person who isn’t morally pious herself.

“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.” – Sharapova.

Interestingly, Sharapova’s comments on Serena’s comments came days after Serena supposedly apologised to her sporting adversary at a WTA party last week. Serena believes Sharapova accepted her apology, but Sharapova making those comments days later however implies the contrary.

More interestingly is that Dimitrov and Serena dated briefly last year but it gets even better as it is Dimitrov that suppodedly introduced Serena to her present getting-a-divorce-and-has- kids boyfriend Patrick Mouratoglou.

While reminding self that this media spat between Serena and Sharapova sparked off due to Serena’s remarks about a 16 year old girl’s rape in Ohio, it’s worthy to remind self also that the third grand slam on the calendar serves off today in London.

Dimitrov, who is 22 years old (yes, Serena was a cougar), will also participate at this year’s Wimbledon just as Mouratoglou, his former coach will be in London to support his former trainee’s ex-girlfriend, his girlfriend Serena.

Not far away, Gustavo Poyet will be chasing an appeal against Brighton and Hove-Albion after the latter bizarrely made the former their former coach while he was working as an analyst of Spain’s Confederations Cup match against Nigeria for the BBC.

And while the club claim Poyet was informed before then, the fired live on air Uruguayan, visibly rattled upon being told the news by BBC staff, denied any prior knowledge of the club’s decision to sack him.

Former Chelsea midfielder Poyet joined Brighton as manager in late 2009 and led them to promotion to the Championship, before leading them to the Championship playoffs last season where they lost to Crystal Palace that eventually won the playoffs and gained promotion to the Premier League.

Would’ve mattered little to Poyet hence that his country’s second team sealed qualification to the semi-final of the Confederations Cup with an 8-0 win over Group B’s whipping nation Tahiti.

The South American champions will now face hosts Brazil in the first semi-final on Wednesday after finishing second in the group behind world and European champions Spain that claimed a well earned 3-0 win over African champions Nigeria thanks to a Jordi Alba brace either side of Fernando Torres’s headed goal.

Indeed Spain could have scored more, with Vincent Enyeama denying Roberto Soldado while Cesc Fabregas somehow shot an effort to the foot of the post when scoring was the likeliest outcome, helplessly watching as Enyeama recovered to save.

Nigeria could have scored at least two as well, with Brown Ideye deciding to grow cold feet when tapping in to goal seemed the likeliest outcome for him. Spain now will face Italy in the second semi-final on Thursday while Nigeria’s senior national team head home.

The Super Eagles’ U20 counterparts as well fared no better against Iberian opposition after coming from two goals down to draw level at 2-2 with Portugal only to end up losing 3-2 in the opening Group B match of the U20 World Cup in Turkey.

Mali was Africa’s only representative among the four that started fairly, picking a point in the 1-1 draw with Paraguay’s U20 side in Group D. Egypt however lost 2-1 to Chile in a Group E match while Ghana’s U20 got beaten 3-1 by their French counterpart in a Group A match.

The Flying Eagles next face Cuba later today needing a win to keep alive hopes of making the second round before rounding off with a match against South Korea on Thursday.

By then, Wimbledon would be well underway. Hopefully, Serena and Sharapova will be on course for a showdown in the final of the women’s section while Novak Djokovic doesn’t mess up the better looking side of the draw he’s been given compared to the tougher looking side of the draw in which Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal find themselves.

To wrap up today’s post, is starting off a few more paragraphs to the biweekly posts, which would celebrate a few birthdays and notable historical events which you may or may not know of. An ‘On This Day’ section pretty much.

So here’s wishing worlds’ (yes, not world’s) footballer of the year Lionel Messi a happy 26th birthday. Hopefully he gets over his tax evasion case in the Spanish court.

Happy birthday also to ace comedian Alibaba, former Argentina playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme (33), delectable American actress Minka Kelly (33), Bayern Munich player David Alaba (21), singer/songwriter Solange Knowles who turns 27 today and to every one else born today.

Also on this day, American tennis player John Isner defeated Nicholas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68 in the longest match in professional tennis history in a first round at the 2010 Wimbledon. The match lasted for 11 hours and five minutes over three days, with the final set alone going for just over eight hours.

Also on this day in 1947, the first widely reported sighting of a UFO was made near Mount Mournier in Washington DC by Kenneth Arnolds. Since then, we’ve had Steven Spielberg’s ET, the Men in Black franchise, Prometheus, the Fifth Element, Star Wars and a galaxy of others.

Finally on this day in 1374, a sudden outbreak of St. John’s Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion. Believe me, I didn’t make this one up and I would swear to it… but God says we shouldn’t swear so…

… on this feast day of St. John the Baptist, have yourself a great week wherever you are. Bless!

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

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.

, , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

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.

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

, , , , , ,

4 Comments

Over the Weekend: New Managers, New Ranking Order and More


Easter greetings to you as the long weekend snails to an end, with the unpleasantly pleasant day of April Fools’ being its last day. Will there be pranks in the following paragraphs? Having supported Arsenal for the better part of the last 15 years going on 16 and lived through Wenger’s press conferences all that time… “I don’t want to comment on speculation.”

The Arsenal manager had little need for evasive answers however, following the club’s 4-1 win over relegation threatened Reading on Saturday in Nigel Adkins first match as Reading manager, having lost 6-1 to Arsenal earlier this season while at Southampton.

The result took the Gunners within two points of fourth place on the Premier League table; a spot currently occupied by Chelsea that was beaten 2-1 at Southampton. Chelsea’s loss favoured all concerned at north London; a bit to every gooners’ dismay though, as Tottenham Hotspur went up to third place, two points ahead of Chelsea, with a 2-1 win at a Swansea City side that look like it can’t be bothered to having a go in matches ever since claiming the League Cup title.

Knew such could happen after Swans manager Michael Laudrup felt after that League Cup win that getting 10 points from their last 10 matches/30 points would be alright. Swansea’s seeming nonchalance has now ‘helped’ both north London clubs in the club’s last two league matches; very much to every Chelsea fan’s disappointment I imagine.

With the yet-to-be-relieved interim manager Rafael Benitez tinkering his team; most notably leaving out Juan Mata (who officially was ill), one may want to blame the loss at the coast on the Blues having an eye on tonight’s FA Cup quarterfinal replay at home to Manchester United.

However, the Red Devils, also with an eye on tonight’s tie, had manager Sir Alex Ferguson shuffling the team just a bit in the early kick-off at Sunderland and still coming away with a lone goal win that, for a few hours opened an 18 point gap at the top. Manchester City later restored that gap to 15 points with a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle United.

For Sunderland, the loss led to the sacking of Martin O’Neill who in no time was replaced Sunday night with the appointment of charismatic, former West Ham United player and more recently former Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio, handed the task of keeping Sunderland in the top flight with eight matches to play.

The Italian manager, who only has Swindon on his managerial CV though did lead them to League One by winning League Two last season, quit the lower league club earlier last month in quite dramatic circumstances and one would expect some more of that to come up now at Sunderland… drama trailed Di Canio in his playing days and spectacularly so (apparently) in his first managerial job.

While awaiting that, Sharks of Port-Harcourt caused a bit of a stir when it unveiled now former manager of Sunshine Stars, Gbenga Ogunbote, as its Technical Adviser during the halftime break of its goalless draw with city rivals Dolphins in a Nigeria Professional Football League match.

First, the unveiling couldn’t have been done before or after the match? Compared however to the fact that Ogunbote will only sign an agreement on Tuesday (rather than a proper contract, long story), the unusual halftime unveiling takes a slightly more trivial position in the whole charade reminiscent of former TA Austin Eguavoen’s arrival at the club.

One also must question the motivation behind Ogunbote leaving a Sunshine team he led to the last four of last season’s CAF Champions League (albeit with fortune’s favour), a team that hasn’t lost its opening four league matches and lies in fifth place with a game in hand, for a club that currently is second from bottom following a woeful start to the campaign.

At the other, brighter, top end of the table, champions Kano Pillars remain in top spot after a 3-2 win at ABS in Ilorin; its second away win this season. Pillars now have 12 points from five matches, a point ahead of Rangers that needed two goals in the closing 10 minutes to get a 3-1 win at home to Kwara United.

Elsewhere, Shooting Stars raced to a three goal lead but in the end held on for a 3-2 win over Wikki Tourists and rise to third place on nine points, with Akwa United now fourth also on nine points courtesy of a 3-0 win over Bayelsa United.

Other results saw Warri Wolves claim a point in a goalless draw at Enyimba despite playing a better part of the last half hour there with 10 men, Heartland thrashed Gombe United 4-0 to rise into the top half of the league, as did Nembe City now in 10th place after a 2-1 win over bottom side El-Kanemi Warriors while the match between Sunshine Stars and Lobi Stars was postponed due to the latter’s continental engagement this week.

Going further north on the continent, the young Pharaohs of Egypt won the Africa Youth Championship in Algeria 5-4 on penalties, as the final match against Ghana on Saturday ended 1-1 after regular and extra time. Nigeria last Friday had finished third with a 2-1 win over Mali in the third place play-off.

Expectedly, the AYC’s Best 11 is dominated by Egypt that had five of their players named, including Saleh Gomaa who was also named Player of the Tournament. Abduljaleel Ajagun was the only Nigerian player on the list, strangely, as golden boot winner Aminu Umar; who finished with seven goals, was left out.

The Flying Eagles meanwhile will face Portugal, South Korea and Cuba in Group B of the World Youth Championship. Egypt find themselves in Group E with England, Chile and Iraq while Mali will face Mexico, Greece and Paraguay in Group D. Ghana on their part will come up against France, Spain and the United States in what potentially is the group of death at the WYC holding later this year in Turkey from June.

Well before then, Turkish giants Galatasaray visit Spanish giants Real Madrid in a first leg quarterfinal UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday night, with Madrid heading into that encounter on a bit of a low after only managing a 1-1 draw at Real Zaragoza in a Primera Liga match.

That result meant Jose Mourinho’s side remain 13 points off the pace in La Liga having failed to take advantage of Barcelona being held to a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo, a match that saw Lionel Messi score his 43rd league goal and create a record of scoring in 19 consecutive league matches, as well as joining Cristiano Ronaldo as a player to have scored against every other team in that league. Those two are a pleasant scare with their footballing prowess.

Elsewhere in the major European leagues, Bayern Munich is now a match from claiming the Bundesliga title after spelling out the opponent’s name, with two to spare, in a scary and scarring 9-2 rout of S.V. Hamburg (okay, the nine letters are now accounted for).

Scarier was the fact that it was third choice striker Claudio Pizarro that led the massacre with four goals. And the message will surely have been crystal to Italian champions Juventus that visit the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night in another Champions League quarterfinal encounter.

Juve prepared for that with a 2-1 Derby d’Italia win at Inter Milan to remain nine points clear of second placed Napoli that won 5-3 in a thrilling match at Torino, and a further two points ahead of AC Milan that claimed a lone goal win at Chievo Verona.

As if that wasn’t an exciting enough match-up to look forward to, Ligue Un leaders Paris Saint Germain; with an extra day’s rest and home advantage, welcome Barcelona to the Parc Des Princes in Tuesday night’s other quarterfinal match-up.

Finally in Tennis, Andy Murray continued his ascendency by replacing Roger Federer as the world number two player after capturing the Sony Open title with a 2-6 6-4 7-6 win over David Ferrer. Ferrer himself rose to fourth on the rankings to replace Spanish compatriot Rafael Nadal who now occupies fifth place.

The new rankings suggest the coming French and Wimbledon Open will be one of the most competitive grand slams held in recent times, barring injuries, with the top five players heading to them in good form along with the likes of Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych. In the female section, Serena Williams claimed a sixth Miami title win courtesy of a straight sets defeat of Maria Sharapova.

With that, it’s a wrap here. There’s the FA Cup replay at Stamford Bridge tonight as well as a chance for QPR to come within five points of safety in the Premier League match at Fulham to look forward to.

Then Champions League quarterfinal matches on Tuesday and Wednesday followed quarterfinal matches in the Europa League on Thursday mean it’s an eventful start to the month of April and indeed the second quarter of 2013.

Have a great week ahead and hey, don’t get fooled out there.

, , , , , , ,

3 Comments

Over the Weekend: Kenyans Ruffle Feathers, Vettel Ignores Orders & More


The Nigeria Professional Football League saw matchday three encounters hold across the country over the weekend, with Sunshine Stars of Akure going top of the table, a couple of big clubs getting back to winning ways and yet another away win being recorded.

At Akure, Sunshine Stars edged to an entertaining 3-2 victory over visiting Gombe United to go top of the league with seven points, a point ahead of six clubs led by Shooting Stars that claimed a 3-1 win over Lobi Stars.

Enugu Rangers is third, with a game in hand, and are followed by Bayelsa United and Enyimba after both won 2-0 at home to Wikki Tourists and El-Kanemi Warriors respectively, while Akwa United jumped to sixth with a lone goal win over league champions Kano Pillars that dropped to seventh to round-up the teams on six points.

In other results, Heartland thrashed Kaduna United 4-1, a goal just before the hour mark gave Kwara United a 1-0 win at Sharks of Port-Harcourt while ABS completed the Ilorin clubs’ double over Port Harcourt clubs with a 1-0 win over Dolphins in Ilorin.

Since the league suffered a number of postponements before eventually commencing earlier this month, a full programme of matches will take place in midweek and the weekend with Shooting Stars visiting Kano Pillars, Kwara United welcoming Heartland to Ilorin, Sunshine Stars going away to play Dolphins and Enyimba also being away at newly promoted Nembe City some of the midweek ties.

Apologies for stating in the last post that there would be no league matches over the weekend, the World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Kenya as well as the Flying Eagles’ final group match at the Africa Youth Championship taking place last Saturday led me to believe so.

Being the first match since, much to the pleasant surprise of pretty much all her citizens, conquering Africa at the Nations Cup, the expectation ahead of the qualifier against Kenya was, basically, to whitewash the East African visitors.

Alas Kenya took the lead, against the run of play, via a well struck free-kick nine minutes from half time. Before then, Victor Moses had had a shot blocked by a last ditch tackle while Brown Ideye saw a goal bound header cleared off the line.

Indeed Nigeria was playing well, John Mikel Obi particularly was impressive on the day with a few visionary passes but there crucially was no gainful end result coming and it was time to read the real script.

Second half almost followed the trend of the first, almost. The Kenyans parked their bus while the Super Eagles, champions of Africa, again and again sought after at least a goal. And just when a shocking home loss looked an inevitable conclusion to the encounter, just when Nigerian tweeters would have to swallow their tweets of Thursday… Nnamdi Oduamadi got Nigeria a face saving equaliser three minutes into the five minutes of stoppage time given.

Oduamadi, by a twist of fate, was a 75th minute substitute for the man whose goal won us the Nations Cup back in February, Sunday Mba. Mba surely passed on the ‘heroics’ spirit to Oduamadi.

On a serious note, the 1-1 draw, which leaves us level on five points with Malawi atop our qualifying group, probably is the perfect result for Nigeria at the moment. Hopefully it will have the Super Eagles show better precision in front of goal, more so with the FIFA Confederations Cup coming up.

In other World Cup qualifiers, Morocco fell to a shock 3-1 loss at Tanzania, Samuel Eto’o scored both goals as Cameroun edged Togo 2-1 in Yaounde, Ghana got a 4-0 win over Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire won 3-0 at home to Gambia and Equatorial Guinea emerged 4-3 winners in a thrilling affair against Cape Verde.

Away from the adults, the Flying Eagles qualified for the World Youth Championship holding later this year in Turkey after easing to a 3-1 win over DR Congo in their final Group B match at the ongoing AYC in Algeria.

All four AYC semi-finalists are now through to the WYC but Nigeria will hope to defend her AYC crown starting with a semi-final match against Group A winners Egypt. The other semi-final will see Mali face fellow West Africans Ghana.

In Formula One, Sebastien Vettel bolstered his chances of retaining the world drivers championship title for a third successive season by winning a dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix, albeit in rather unsavoury circumstances.

First Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso crashed out of the race very early on, then 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton; in his first season with Mercedes, erroneously made for a pit-stop at his former team McLaren’s, only to be waved through to his actual team’s pit.

The Briton would then have the benefit of team orders and finish third ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg who finished in fourth, after being told to not go past Hamilton in the closing stages of the race; a decision that left Hamilton embarrassed and feeling undeserving of his podium place in the post race press conference.

But Hamilton had it much better, as he didn’t have to deal with answering questions with Rosberg around, unlike Vettel who mostly kept being evasive and apologetic about the manner the race was won while Mark Webber tried to veil his massive anger/disappointment at the whole plot that had played out on the tracks.

Locked in a battle with his Redbull teammate with 15 laps to go, Vettel disregarded team orders to ease off Webber and ‘overtook’ the Australian on his way to going past the chequered flag first. Webber later admitted that he let his world champion teammate go ahead seeing as he wasn’t letting up.

While the above may be strange to aliens of Formula One, it is nearly common practise to have a team give certain orders that favours one of its drivers over the other. Michael Schumacher especially gained from such orders in the twilight of his time at Ferrari at the expense of Felipe Massa.

Vettel’s ‘disobedience’ however is a new one, made even worse by him replying that he is the faster of the Redbull drivers and hence, should be in the lead/shouldn’t be told to ease off. On a larger view, it could trip off a ripple of bad for Formula One as a competitive sport.

In hindsight, if Vettel had ‘allowed’ Webber win the race it would have put Webber on top of the drivers’ championship standings with 35 points ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who finished in seventh in Malaysia, on 33 points while Vettel would be level on 33 points with Raikkonen in third place.

Alas what obtains now is Vettel being top with 40 points, Raikkonen second with 33 and Webber coming in at third with 28 points. Had the wisdom of the Redbull team principal prevailed, Webber winning the race and Vettel finishing second would have given Redbull same 68 points it has now anyway on the constructors’ championship standings, while more imperatively putting both drivers in good stead on the drivers’ championship standings.

That’s their mess to deal with internally though, and one gets the feeling now that a race would be tailored in favour of Webber for the sake of team spirit, which for now seems lost somewhere down the drain.

On a lighter note, in Tennis, Serena Williams made it to the fourth round of the Miami Masters with a straight sets win over Ayumi Morita of Japan, after riding to the venue of her match on a bicycle to beat traffic on the way and not be late for the encounter.

Older sister Venus Williams unfortunately retired due to injury, while former number one Caroline Wozniacki suffered a loss. Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na however made it to the next round with Serena.

On that note, here’s to a beat-the-deadline, no-bad-blood week ahead. Cheers.

, , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

%d bloggers like this: