Posts Tagged Tito Vilanova

During the Week: Eguavoen Out, Heats Doused and More

For the first time since the Nigeria Professional Football League began on March 9, no away win was recorded yet Matchday Four witnessed the most number of teams pick up a point on the road.

At Maiduguri Bayelsa United was two goals up and looking full value for a win that would’ve taken the Yenagoa club top of the league, only for El-Kanemi to score two goals in the closing half hour and claim a share of the spoils.

Sunshine Stars also conceded late on to settle for a 1-1 draw at Dolphins while Enugu Rangers and Enyimba were also held to 1-1 draws at Kaduna United and Nembe City respectively, with Nasarawa United coming away from Warri with a point in a goalless draw against Wolves.

The drawn matches played out by Sunshine, Rangers, Enyimba and Bayelsa allowed champions Kano Pillars return to the top of the league courtesy of a 2-0 win at home to Shooting Stars. Pillars now have nine points from four matches, ahead of Sunshine Stars and Rangers by point. Kwara United lies fourth on the standings, also a point behind Pillars, after beating Heartland by a lone goal in Ilorin.

In other matches, Wikki Tourists climbed five places from the foot of the table with a 2-0 win over Akwa United while Sharks of Port-Harcourt dropped to the bottom of the league with a 2-0 loss at Gombe United.

Apart from putting Sharks at the foot of the table, it also got the club’s management to begin a search for a new manager after Austin Eguavoen; a former Super Eagles and Flying Eagles manager, resigned from his post with the club.

And already, manager of last season’s CAF Champions League semi-finalists Sunshine Stars, Gbenga Ogunbote has reportedly been approached to take over the reins at Port-Harcourt.

Away from the home league, the Flying Eagles failed in their attempt to defend the Africa Youth Championship crown after losing 2-0 to the young Pharaohs of Egypt in a semi-final earlier in the week. The Egyptians will now face Ghana for the AYC crown later today in Algiers, after the Black Starlets beat Mali on penalties; with Ghana’s goalkeeper saving three spot kicks.

Mali’s young Eagles faced Nigeria in the third place play-off last night, with Nigeria getting revenge for the opening day defeat to the Malians with a 2-1 win courtesy of second half goals from Aminu Umar.

On the international front, world and European champions Spain returned to the top of their World Cup Qualifying group with a hard-fought 1-0 win at France, while Germany, Belgium, Croatia and the Netherlands remained on course to seal qualification from their respective groups with respective wins.

Spain’s win came courtesy of Pedro’s goal, but the pacy forward will be unavailable this weekend for Barcelona’s match against Celta Vigo. The Catalan giants will also be without Carles Puyol, full backs Adriano and Jordi Alba through injury as well as first choice keeper Victor Valdes who continues to serve a suspension.

However, manager Tito Vilanova will be back at the club but likely won’t be in the dug-out just yet against Celta, after completing another round of treatment for his throat cancer in New York.

In Chicago meanwhile, the star-studded Miami Heats side saw a remarkable run of 27 successive matches won come to an end on Wednesday night in a thrilling 101-97 loss against the Chicago Bulls. The loss left the Heats six wins short of the all-time record of 33 straight matches won set by the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 1970s.

At a point though it seemed the Lebron James led Heats would make it 28 wins on the bounce after the visitors had overturned a double-figure deficit; as it had done in two previous matches this month, and taken the lead in the third quarter. But the Bulls refused to succumb and in the end claimed a historic win.

Away from the basketball, it was reported/rumoured that US intelligence agency, the FBI had arrested Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in “God’s own country”. The Russian’s spokesman, and later himself, would soon after debunk those reports but, why they emanated in the first place leaves one curious.

Someone else who did get arrested was father of Gary and Phil Neville, Neville Neville (had to check the name multiple times) on suspicion of sexually assaulting a woman in her 40s. The 63 year old Neville was later released on bail till May while an enquiry over the incident ensues.

In the mean time, action returns to the major European leagues this weekend with Juventus’ visit of Inter Milan in the Serie A the match to watch, along with Bayern Munich’s match at home to Hamburg in the Bundesliga. A win for both sides would edge them closer to their respective domestic league title.

In France, PSG went even closer to the Ligue Un title with a lone goal win over reigning champions Montpellier last night, thanks to a late Kevin Gameiro goal. The win opened an eight-point gap for PSG over Olympique Lyon that hosts Sochaux on Sunday while third placed Marseille, a further two points behind, visit Nice.

In England, Manchester United visit Sunderland in a much healthier position than the last time both teams met at the Stadium of Light. Then, United had won by a lone goal but lost the league title on goal difference to city rivals Man. City. Today, the Red Devils head into the early kick-off 15 points clear of City, that hosts Newcastle United later on today.

Elsewhere, Chelsea face a potential banana skin match at Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur will hope to end a run of three straight losses in all competitions at Swansea while Arsenal host relegation threatened Reading as the Gunners keep chase of Chelsea and Spurs in the race for a top four finish.

In Nigeria, third placed Rangers will host fourth placed Kwara United in this weekend’s top bill match of the NPFL. Sharks will be at ‘home’ to Dolphins in the Port-Harcourt derby while Sunshine Stars will host Lobi Stars at Akure and league leaders Kano Pillars will be guests of ABS in Ilorin.

That’s about it with the round-up. Will be rooting for Kwara United in their tough trip to Enugu, as well as Lazio at home to Catania… and Andy Murray in the Sony Open in Miami as he looks to become Tennis’ number two player should he defeat David Ferrer in the final there.

Have a great Easter weekend! Jesus is Lord!

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Over the Weekend: Dream Debuts, Big Italians Lose & Tito Wins One

The FA Cup began proper in England as clubs from the Premier League joined in the third round action, while a couple of the major leagues returned from the mid-season break with Cavani, CR7 and El Messius still banging goals in and Tito Vilanova back in the Catalunya dugout as he recovers from cancer… and Casillas showing just why The One would rather not start him.

FA Cup
The oldest competition in football witnessed its third round over the weekend, traditionally the stage where the elite clubs – the Premier League clubs – begin their quest for the Cup.

But there’s a reason the FA Cup is so revered by all who play and who watch the competition, the giantkilling. And Brighton & Hove-Albion set the third round going with a well earned 2-0 humbling of what has lately been a rather appalling Newcastle United (one club from the elite, down! Next!)

Yes, yes, the pitch there wasn’t Ashburton Grove sleek or Old Trafford inspiring but the early kick-off on Saturday gave little indication that the Toons deserved to get even a replay from the encounter.

On the contrary, the Cup’s most illustrious clubs and landlords of the exemplary pitches in the previous paragraph, managed to trigger yet more twitter banter between both set of their loyalists along with nosy spectator fans of other clubs.

First, on Saturday, Manchester United took a Cleverley lead, then fell behind to DeJoe vu moments as Joe Cole (on his second West Ham debut) fed James Collins twice, only for Robin van Persie to come on, take down a long ball from Ryan Giggs under pressure and strike low (with his right foot) for a 90th minute equaliser.

With that goal, gooners yet again opened the book of Lamentations on the world though it sounded more like the Songs of Solomon to the red devils.

And on Sunday, Arsenal, typically, fell behind to a Miguel Michu strike, before well taken goals by iPod, who came on for the much loved Ramsey, and a well struck left foot venom by Kieran Gibbs off a sumptuous one-two put the Gunners ahead in the closing stages.

But that’s merely dramatic and Arsenal love the drama only when it’s extremely so hence, some very absurd defending allowed the Swans to get a late equaliser and earn a replay next week at the Emirates with Brighton & Hove-Albion awaiting the winner of that.

Elsewhere, Demba Ba settled in quite quickly to being number 29 at Chelsea, getting a brace on his debut as the Blues came from behind (sexual) to trounce Southampton 5-1 at St. Mary’s.

Then Daniel Sturridge, sold to Liverpool for 12 mlllion quid by Chelsea, got a goal as the Reds beat Mansfield 2-1. He lived up to expectation of course, failing to convert when one-on-one with the opposition keeper.

Why Liverpool got Studge for a dozen million quid when it would’ve cost a bit less to get Ba… well, it’s done. Liverpool have done better in these sort of matters ala Henderson and Downing.

The club did spend good money on Luis Suarez, a very talented player that. Problem is, the Uruguayan always has controversy trailing him and this weekend was no exception as he clearly controlled the ball with his hand just before scoring Liverpool’s second.

La Liga
Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal of the season.. pause… I’ll take that again. After 18 matches played, Zeus’ godfather incarnate Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal as Barcelona eased to a 4-0 win over neighbours RCD Espanyol.

More embarrassingly for the neighbours, all four goals were scored in the first half while Pedro was denied a hattrick by an offside flag. Neighbours, the closest Espanyol will get to being at Barcelona’s level.

That said, Barça now holds an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid after the latter was held to a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca. Real Madrd meanwhile remains ♫super sweet 16♫ points adrift of their arch-rivals after coming out of an eventful seven-goal encounter victorious.

Iker Casillas again started from the bench and after Karim Benzema had put Real ahead in the second minute with a goal that continues to render Gonzalo Higuain surplus to requirement, Real keeper Adan was sent off for conceding a penalty in the sixth minute.

On came Casillas but Prieto levelled for Sociedad. No problem there, goalkeepers hate facing penalties. But Casillas twice lapsed in concentration and you have to ask, is the man still motivated to be Real and Spain’s number one? Reina, De Gea and Valdes keenly watch on.

Real at the other end spared Casillas blushes and, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo brace, claimed a fortuitous 4-3 win over Sociedad that later had a man sent off themselves.

In the end, what matters is the count in the 2013 golden boot, they-score-when-they-want race. Radamel Falcao isn’t off the mark yet, CR7 has two and Messi has one no thanks to Pedro’s stray foot and the crossbar.

Robin van Persie though has three goals so far and was joined by the very fit Edinson Cavani who got a hattrick as Napoli bullied AS Roma to a 4-1 defeat.

Serie A
Cavani now has 16 league goals and a total of 99 goals in his Serie A career, helping Napoli rise to third on a weekend that saw Juventus, Fiorentina and Inter Milan fall.

Juventus’ lead had been cut to five points by Lazio in a 2-1 win over Cagliari in Saturday, but the Old Lady certainly was still on her mid-season break as 10-man Sampdoria came from behind – after being reduced to 10 men – to claim a 2-1 win at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico.

Antonio di Natalie meanwhile orchestrated Inter Milan’s 3-0 loss at Udinese while Fiorentina fell 2-0 at home to lowly Pescara but remain ahead of Inter on goal difference, with both still nine points behind leaders Juventus.

It’s a Wrap
Here’s wishing Tito Vilanova a recovery as smooth sailing as his club’s La Liga form. Barcelona, after 18 matches, have won 17 and drawn one and look very well on course to break the records Real set in winning the title last season.

Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever run a series of posts to schedule over a stretch of time on here so “Over the Weekend” and possibly “During the (Mid)Week” will help this cobweb clogged blog clear up.

Have a productive week then.

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