Posts Tagged Vettel

Over the Weekend: Bundesliga Goes Global, Nigeria Gets a Wing into Brazil & More


The German Bundesliga has agreed a deal with 21st Century Fox, which will see matches from the league broadcast live for five years from the 2015/16 season in Asia, North and South America as well as for two years in Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The deal – coupled with the rate the Bundesliga’s popularity is growing thanks to on-field performances of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and the German national team by extension – promises to get the Bundesliga at par with the Spanish Primera Division and English Premier League in terms of financial income and by overseas fanbase.

Bayern have started the defence of their Bundesliga and Champions League title on a high, currently leading league rivals Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen by a point while also easing past Manchester City last time out in Europe.

Dortmund on their part are second in Group D ahead of their crucial trip to group leaders Arsenal next week as club football resumes following a raft of 2014 World Cup qualifiers over the international break.

Germany secured qualification with a 3-0 win over Ireland while England and Spain can join the three time champions on Tuesday at the expense of Ukraine and France when they face Poland and Georgia respectively.

In Africa, Samuel Eto’o returned from retirement to bolster Cameroun’s attack in a final qualifying round first leg match at Tunisia on Sunday, but it was Charles-Hubert Itandje who starred for the Indomitable Lions with a number of saves as the match in Tunis ended goalless.

Earlier on Saturday, Algeria left Ouagadougou in largely good spirit following a 3-2 loss against Burkina Faso while Didier Drogba scored twice as Cote D’Ivoire got a 3-1 win at home to Senegal, a healthy enough lead to take into the second leg at Dakar in November.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles will take the healthiest lead into a return leg, after coming from behind to claim a dramatic 2-1 win at Ethiopia on Sunday thanks to a brace from Emmanuel Emenike.

The win in Addis Ababa extended Nigeria’s unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 27 matches and though it put them in great stead ahead of the return leg in Calabar in November, it remains to be seen if Stephen Keshi’s assemble can hold their own outside the continent.

Despite losing to Uruguay and world champions Spain at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, the Super Eagles showed potential in their performance against their more illustrious rivals then and will hope to start living up to their promise when they meet with 2006 world champions Italy in a friendly match at London, days after the return match against Ethiopia.

Before then, the Super Eagles will come up against Jordan on October 28 as Keshi also prepares for the African Nations Championship – competition involving players from respective indigeneous leagues – holding early next year in South Africa.

Meanwhile in the Nigeria Premier League, Kano Pillars remain on course to defend the league title as they remain top of the league with 60 points despite losing 2-1 at Gombe United on Saturday.

With two matches left in the season, Pillars now lead by just a point ahead of Enyimba on 59 points as the Aba Elephants got a lone goal win at home to ABS, while Bayelsa United and El-Kanemi Warriors follow in third and fourth place on 58 and 57 points respectively after both lost 1-0 at Kaduna United and Heartland respectively.

In Formula 1, Sebastien Vettel of Red Bull has not won the world title just yet even though his win at Suzuka is a fifth successive grand prix win on his barge to a fourth successive world title.

Closest challenger Fernando Alonso of Ferrari – who finished fourth and see the world between him and Vettel stretch to 90 points/10 points-under-a-four-race-gap – conceded this season’s title to the German who only has to finish in the top five or not be outscored by 16 points by Alonso in the Indian Grand Prix to win the title.

The Spaniard hence is only content with the consolation of amassing the most points in F1 history after surpassing Michael Schumacher’s all-time score. Alonso has now scored 1,571 points, two more points than Schumacher while Vettel is third on that list with 1,351 points.

While disappointment has largely riddled Ferrari’s season, controversy has courted the Red Bull team with Mark Webber among others claiming the team’s strategy during the race favoured Vettel who had dropped to third at the start of the race with Grosjean jumping into the lead from fourth ahead of Webber.

The race had witnessed Webber being made to make three pit stops while Vettel made two stops; with the first pit stop of Webber coming at lap 11, four laps before Vettel’s first and enough time for the latter to take and build on a lead ahead of him and Grosjean.

Webber’s second stop, at lap 25, effectively ended his chance of winning the race and for a while looked to ensure he wouldn’t go past Grosjean, with Vettel making his second and final pit stop at lap 37 of 53.

Webber eventually only went past Grosjean in the penultimate lap, as late as it is to plaster a deep wedge driven deeper between both drivers from much earlier in the season when Vettel had disobeyed team instructions and forced Webber to let him pass on his way to winning the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.

And while he denied it, it is believed that incident led to Webber deciding he will leave the team and the sport at the end of this season and join Porsche next year in their Le Mans sportscar programme.

Finally from tennis, Novak Djokovic made it 20 consecutive match wins on Chinese courts following his 6-1 3-6 7-6 win over Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the Shanghai Masters.

Del Potro had earlier in the semi-final inflicted only a fifth defeat of the season on Rafael Nadal, whose season record now stands at 68 wins in 73 matches while Djokovic has now won 62 matches this season.

That’s the bit from here. Came across this amusing story of a footballer whose brace in a Tajikistan league match resulted in power and water supply to his home being cut.

On this day, Nigerian footballer Ahmed Musa is born in 1992, David Beckham played his last match for England in 2009, the children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne is first published in 1926, English actor Roger Moore is born in 1927, fashion designer Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lifshitz) is born in 1939 and the first live television broadcast from space is done in 1968.

Have a pleasant week ahead wherever this post meets you.

, , , , ,

6 Comments

Random Yarns from the Week: England Have No Claim and More


Seeing a female formula 1 driver is rare and on a sad note, the closest one there’s been to driving at a competitive level in recent times, Maria de Villota was found dead in Seville earlier today.

De Villota was a reserve F1 driver who had survived a terrible accident while testing for the Marussia team in 2011 in a collision with a lorry, suffering severe head and facial injuries and losing her right eye in the process… though she did get back to racing.

Onto competitive racing where it’s almost rare for Sebastien Vettel not to finish on the podium. And he could be crowned world champion of Formula 1 for a fourth consecutive year in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, a race the Red Bull driver heads into with a 77 point lead over Fernando Alonso, who must finish lower than eighth for Vettel (who also must win the race) to be crowned champion.

At the moment, Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton led the track after first practice session in Suzuka but inevitably, Vettel remains firm favourite to win a fifth successive race… but maybe not so much the title for this weekend at least.

That said, Vettel and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber matched the Mercedes by heading the track after second practice, leaving them odds on to take pole position. Vettel was pole in the last grand prix in South Korea.

Inevitably also, there’s talk of fans getting bored of Vettel’s dominance of the sport, exemplified by him getting booed in a recent race, but Suzuka is almost a second home for the German while the other teams just need to step up to the level the Red Bull team has reached over the years.

Can’t blame some fans getting irked by Vettel’s dominance however, as I was in their shoes when Roger Federer held sway in the tennis world right after the glory days of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Never liked Federer in that period simply because it will always be Sampras for me while Novak Djokovic is my present favourite on the tour, but watching Federer crash out of the Shanghai Masters didn’t inspire a rival fan’s ‘joy’.

Only two years ago, Gael Monfils would’ve been happy to get a set off Federer not the other way round as it happened in Shanghai. Alas! The Swiss master (I don’t like his game doesn’t make him less a great) is past his prime and has twins to care for too.

Novak Djokovic remains in his prime though and is through to the Shanghai Masters semi-final (at Monfils expense) alongside Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro who beat Florian Mayer and Nicholas Almagro respectively. Rafael Nadal on his part beat Stanislas Wawrinka for a place in the last four, his 68th win in 72 matches this year.

As for world number three Andy Murray, he’ll have to be content with watching his peers from the sideline as he continues his recovery from back surgery. Sadly, he’s had to pull out of the season ending ATP World Tour final in London to continue his recovery.

Murray’s absence means there are now five more places in the Tour Final to fight for, with Nadal, Djokovic and David Ferrer already guaranteed their place in the season finale. Ferrer however has been beaten in Shanghai, 6-4 6-3 by Florian Mayer earlier on.

Seventh ranked Federer could seal his place in the Tour Finals by doing well enough in the two tournaments before November’s finale, at Basel and Paris, but he will be contesting for those five spots with Tomas Berdych, Del Potro and Tsonga who are in the last four in Shanghai, as well as countryman Stanislas Wawrinka, Milos Raonic of Canada and Richard Gasquet of France.

Del Potro, Berdych and Tsonga hold a big threat to Federer’s quest to make the finale for a 12th successive year, while Wawrinka, Gasquet and Raonic will have to put up strong performances over the next fortnight to boost their chance of making it to London, where there’s little chance of them getting embroiled in who should or shouldn’t represent what nation.

Special thanks to native Englishman and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere for making the lines clear between who’s English and who’s not English even though they may have the Queen’s passport anyway… thus getting a number of sportsmen such as Kevin Pietersen and John Fashanu worked up.

All because of what (who)? The mere suggestion that Adnan Januzaj should play for the English national team; the Three Lions, following his heroics at the Stadium of Light… a debut that has eventually made us now know that he shares his birthday with Cristiano Ronaldo and that he made his debut on the anniversary of George Best making his Manchester United debut all those years ago.

Simply put, and that’s if you don’t read the fine print, it means Januzaj is destined to be great! Destined to be great because the boy scored two (well made first and well taken second admittedly) goals? Against a bottom of the league side? On his league debut?

While trying to understand why the 18 year old who’s eligible to play for the national teams of Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Albania and Turkey and actually won’t be eligible to play for England before 2018… wait, so what’s all the fuss about?

And right on cue, the matter changed from the morality involved in having ‘foreigners’ play for a nation of residency or descent even rather than of birth to ‘do we have enough of our (native) youngsters coming through even?’

Judging from the calamitous Euros endured by Stuart Pearce’s young Lions last year and by the number of young Lions (under 23 years of age) featuring regularly for ‘top six/seven’ Premier League clubs or doing exceptionally well on loan to decent clubs from these ‘top’ clubs, the future of English football for the next decade is bleak.

While a world class institute/academy in England ala Clairefontaine in France or La Masia in Spain is for the moment an infant, England really have a small pool of ‘world class’ players with Wayne Rooney perhaps the only established one.

Wilshere still talks about getting to optimum fitness following almost two years on the sidelines, Tom Cleverley is struggling with shedding the hot prospect tag and living up to the pun in the family name while Joe Hart’s gloves have betrayed him in recent times.

Daniel Sturridge is a big hope, but Danny Welbeck’s more of a flickering hope. Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon are as good as they can be annoying, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have aged, Gareth Barry pretty much so as well. So, 19 year old Ross Barkley? Alongside a Phil Jones if he manages to stay fit over a sustained period?

Only position on the field England can actually boast of credible and consistent (performance wise) options is at left back but three grains of rice will never be enough to feed a famished Lion… and it’s the Three Lions being written of here.

Apart from all that, when majority of the best players or managers in your league are foreigners (including the nearby Scots and Irishmen; Northern and Republic), it does not matter just how world and Martian class your academy is when you don’t have same standard of coaches or even managers.

Indeed, that they’re getting regular time in their native leagues is helping youngsters in rival nations as Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands, there’s more to it than the obvious. A proven blueprint; in suitable tactics, techniques and coaching is what England needs more than a world class academy or a quota system in favour of ‘Englishmen’.

Right now however, the Three Lions – native and naturalised – have gone a step closer to qualifying for Brazil 2014 following a 4-1 win over Montenegro on Friday night, in the first of their final two crucial World Cup qualifying matches.

Now with 19 points, England is a point ahead of Ukraine that ended Poland’s faint hopes of top spot or even a playoff spot in a 1-0 win in Kyiv. England can therefore be a bit confident of getting qualification in Tuesday’s trip to face Poland.

Belgium meanwhile have qualified for Brazil 2014 as a brace from Romelu Lukaku earned the Red Devils a 2-1 win at Croatia and open an unassailable eight point gap for the Belgians who last made a World Cup appearance in 2002.

Croatia will be content with getting a playoff spot while Wales, that beat Macedonia 1-0 in Cardiff on Friday, will host the happy Belgians on Tuesday in a pseudo-testimonial for Craig Bellamy after the Cardiff City winger announced he’ll retire from national duty then.

Elsewhere, Russia got a 4-0 win from their trip to Luxembourg to effectively get the qualification ticket after second placed Portugal was held to a 1-1 draw by the Israelites in Lisbon, a result that put Russia three points and ahead of the Portuguese who must now win by a seven-goal margin at home to Luxembourg and hope Russia lose at Azerbaijan to get automatic qualification. Otherwise, Cristiano Ronaldo and co can settle for their guaranteed playoff spot already.

Four nations will battle for one playoff spot in Group B, as second placed Bulgaria’s 2-1 loss at Armenia allowed the latter and two other nations to equal or come within a point of them.

Denmark was held to a 2-2 draw by already qualified Italy to go level on 13 points with Bulgaria while Czech Republic came within a point of the duo thanks to a 4-1 win at Malta, ahead of Armenia on goal difference.

Denmark will be favourites to get the playoff spot as they host Malta on Tuesday, while Bulgaria on their part host Czech Republic and Armenia visit the Azurri needing a win and other results to go their way to get that playoff spot.

Sweden got a playoff spot from Group C in a comeback 2-1 win at home to third placed Austria after a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired second half with Germany sealing qualification from that group with a 3-0 win at home to Republic of Ireland.

The already qualified Netherland’s demolished Hungary 8-1 as Robin van Persie became the Dutch side’s all-time leading scorer with a hattrick on the night, while Turkey got a 2-0 win at Estonia to maintain second place with 16 points ahead of Romania that also has 16 points following a 4-0 win at Andorra.

Turkey will get the playoff spot in that group if their result at home to the Netherlands on Tuesday is not bettered by Romania who host Estonia, while Hungary with 14 points must get a big win from their match against bottom side Andorra and hope Turkey and Romania lose to get the playoff spot.

In Africa, Nigeria’s Super Eagles will visit Ethiopia on Sunday in a first leg match of the final qualifying round on the continent. Before then, Senegal will face Cote D’Ivoire in Abidjan on Saturday without the uninvited Demba Ba while Ghana host Egypt on Monday.

Finally in the Nigeria Premier League, Kano Pillars took a big step towards defending their league title after beating title rivals Enyimba 2-0 in Lokoja on Wednesday, going top of the league as a result.

Should Pillars go on to win the league, they will have only a month to prepare for a second title defence after the League Management Company announced on Thursday that the 2013/14 season will kick off in the penultimate weekend of November. Next season will also see the return of special matches on Friday evenings as the league calendar steadily returns to normal.

My weekend begins now however, bringing us to the end of this post. On this day in 1962, the Second Vatican Council holds, 92 years after the first. And in 1582, the day does not exist in Italy, Spain, Poland and Portugal due to the implementation of the Gregorian calendar.

Today also is the International Day of the Girl Child, the 38th anniversary of tv show Saturday Night Live, the birthday of former rapper MC Lyte and actresses Contance Zimmer (Entourage, House of Cards) and Joan Cushack (Shameless). Best wishes to them and everyone celebrating today.

Have a pleasant weekend.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

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.

, , , , ,

2 Comments

Over the Weekend: Di Canio Sacked, Man. United Trounced, Vettula 1 & More


Following Sunderland’s 3-0 loss at West Brom in a Premier League match on Saturday, a match former player as at a fornight ago Stephane Sessegnon scored the first, travelling fans of the Black Cats sang to Paolo Di Canio he was getting sacked in the morning. How wrong they were… he got sacked in the evening, but no matter as they got their wish anyway.

But after only 13 matches? Appropriately if you’re the superstitious type and expectedly if you’re the analytic mind having watched the Italian sell a number of players, bring in 14 players, openly criticise his team individually and collectively on a number of occasions and, rather dramatically, communicate with the fans with his exaggerated goal celebrations or aggrieved gestures culminating with the aggrieved gestures to fans who sang his imminent exit to him.

Di Canio at the Hawthorns (BBC)

Di Canio’s exit splits opinion though. Why allow him change the team so if he won’t be given time to make them gel? However, one point from five matches this season and three wins from 13 matches since being appointed late last season is more than enough to get him sacked (although the official statement from the club says they ‘parted ways’).

Most of all, the Italian shot himself in the foot time and again by continuously criticising his team, subtly exempting self from blame over the dire situation at the club by so doing. Even Jose Mourinho would be amazed by Di Canio’s drama, but the Portuguese has his own crate of eggs to watch over.

Having left Juan Mata out of the squad and David Luiz for ‘form reasons’, Chelsea got a 2-0 win at home to local rivals Fulham with goals from Oscar who’s keeping Mata out of the team and, for his first ever since joining the Premier League, John Mikel Obi. The Nigerian’s goal completely wiping off the gloom that was previously on Roman Abramovic’s face all afternoon.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Simon Mignolet’s stock rose further after making seven saves yet his Liverpool team still managed to lose 1-0 at home to Southampton and drop from top to fifth with 10 points, Merseyside rivals Everton came from behind to get a thrilling 3-2 win at West Ham United through a Leighton Baines brace of freekicks and Romelu Lukaku’s first for the club.

Loïc Remy scored twice and missed a late chance as Newcastle United lost 3-2 at home to Hull City (Tigers), Christian Benteke went off injured (to send fantasy league managers wailing) in Aston Villa’s lone goal win at Norwich City while Swansea City is now ninth with seven points behind Manchester United on goal difference thanks to a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace.

More fantasy league managers and indeed every red devil began wailing when news that Robin van Persie got injured just before the derby filtered out, a precursor for the terrible Sunday afternoon they were to endure as Sergio Agüero scored twice to help Man. City to a crushing 4-1 win, sending the blue side of Manchester up to third with 10 points ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.

Unusually, the north London clubs hold the league’s top spot, with Tottenham Hotspur second with 12 points courtesy of a 93rd minute earned 1-0 win at Cardiff City while Arsenal töp the league ahead öf their löcal rivals ön göal difference föllöwing a 3-1 win at höme to Stöke City thanks tö göals from Aarön Ramsey, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna, all directly and otherwise assisted by Mesut Özil.

Gooners ahead of Özil's home debut [Arsenal.com]

Özil’s former club Real Madrid were unable to hand Gareth Bale his home debut after the Welsh, just like former Southampton teammate Theo Walcott, got injured just before the match against local rivals Getafe, a match comfortably won 4-1 nonetheless with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a brace to go past Hugo Sanchez on the all time Madrid scoring list.

Barcelona however remain top of the league with a perfect record after five matches ahead of Atletico and Real Madrid on goal difference and by two points respectively following a 4-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, with Lionel Messi not scoring in his 250th appearance and Pedro Rodriguez getting a hattrick instead.

Napoli also maintained its perfect start in Italy, getting historic 2-1 win at AC Milan in a match Mario Balotelli failed to score a penalty for the first time in his career, before scoring from open play only to get himself sent off after full time for dissent. ”Why always me?”

Napoli however dropped to second behind AS Roma on goal difference after the Giallorossi won a fiery derby di capitale 2-0 ‘at home’ to 10-man SS Lazio on Sunday. Champions Juventus remained fifth, two points behind the leading duo, despite a 2-1 win over Hellas Verona.

Inter Milan rose to third with 10 points, ahead of Juventus and Fiorentina on goal difference, after easing to a 7-0 demolition of newly promoted Sassuolo while Giuseppe Rossi continued his scoring streak after two years without a goal (or decent run of games even) in Fiorentina’s 2-0 win at Atalanta.

In France, the billionaire clash between PSG and AS Monaco ended in a 1-1 draw with Radamel Falcao cancelling out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s early opener for the Parisians, keeping Monaco top of Ligue 1 with 14 points ahead of PSG and St. Etienne with 12 points while Olympique Marseille have 11 points in fourth place ahead of Nice and Rennes on goal difference following a goalless draw against newly promoted Bastia – Sebastien Squillaci’s club.

Bayern Munich went level on 16 points with Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen a point behind in third courtesy of a 4-0 crushing of Ruhr side Schalke 04, with Dortmund ending a frustrating week with a 1-1 draw at Bavarian side Nürnberg having lost at Napoli in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

In the CAF Champions League, defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt secured top spot and a semi-final berth from Group A following a goalless draw at Orlando Pirates, a result convenient enough to send Pirates through in second spot ahead of Zamalek that demolished AC Leopards 4-1 hours earlier in Egypt on Sunday.

Al Ahly will now face Coton Sport of Cameroun that finished second in Group B even before their 2-1 loss at group winner Esperance, with the Tunisian side now set to face Pirates in the other semi-final holding on the first weekend of October with the return fixtures a fortnight later.

Nigerian league title holders Kano Pillars meanwhile edged closer to competing for the Champions League next season and retaining the Nigerian league title after a 2-0 win over Warri Wolves in Kaduna.

With five matches left in the season, Pillars lead with 57 points and lie two points ahead of Bayelsa United that beat Enyimba by a lone goal and send the Aba Elephants down to fourth with 52 points, two points behind El-Kanemi Warriors that got a lone goal win over Gombe United.

In other matches, Kwara United remained fifth despite a 1-0 loss at Dolphins, Shooting Stars remain in the relegation zone despite a 2-1 win at home to Rangers with Wikki Tourists now level on 42 points with the Ibadan side after a 3-0 win over Nembe City, sending Nembe bottom of the league behind Shooting and Wikki on goal difference.

Finally, to the top of Formula 1 where Sebastien Vettel put in another devastating performance to win the Singapore Grand Prix and widen the gap between him and Fernando Alonso, who finished second in the race, to 60 points with six races left in the season.

Though Vettel, reigning back to back to back champion, had opened a significant lead before the safety car was deployed, the German driver went Johnny Blaze on his rivals in the final 30 laps after the safety car went off, finishing the race half a minute ahead of his nearest rival Alonso with Kimi Räikkönen taking the last podium place ahead of the Mercedes’ of Nico Rosberg and former world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Only way Alonso can overhaul Vettel now is to win the remaining six races and watch Vettel fail to finish in a podium position once. Hamilton, who is a handful of points from being four races behind Vettel on the championship table… it’s ridiculous bringing up these permutations even as Vettel looks odds on to win a fourth successive drivers championship.

With that, it’s a wrap here. Plenty to look forward to thid week including Nicklas Bendtner’s first match for Arsenal in two years when the Gunners face West Brom in the Capital One Cup, and Luis Suarez’s likely return from a 10-match ban in Liverpool’s match against Manchester United in the same competition.

On this day in history, Nintendo is founded in 1889, Bisexuality Day is observed in the United States, Juan Martin Del Potro celebrates his 25th birthday, Saudi Arabia their national day and the Week for the Poor begins at St. Dominic’s Church today.

Be charitable as you have a pleasant week wherever you are. Cheers.

, , , , ,

2 Comments

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

Over the Weekend: D’Tigers Edge Past Cameroun, Bluebirds Shock Man. City & More


Nigeria’s national basketball team has qualified for the second round of the African Basketball Championship, finishing top of her group at the competition ongoing in Abidjan following a thrilling 91-84 victory over Cameroun in their final group match.

D’Tigers had won the first quarter comfortably, only to be overhauled in the second quarter as Cameroun put themselves a point ahead going into the interval. The Camerounians then opened a nine point lead at a point in the third quarter, at which point the Nigerians began a late rally, trailing by three points at the end of the third.

By the fourth, D’Tigers were level at 84 all going into the final minute, scoring seven more points to seal a hardfought victory and set up a potentially straightforward second round clash on Tuesday with the Central African Republic that finished bottom of Group C.

Championship favourites Angola defeated the Central African Republic 85-80 in their final group match to finish top of Group C with three wins from three matches and set up a second round match against Mali tonight while defending champions Tunisia will face rivals Egypt tonight as well in another second round match.

Moving on from the Nigerian basketball team’s exploits, the Nigerian Professional Football League continued over the weekend with Kano Pillars returning to the top of the table ahead of Bayelsa United on goal difference thanks to a lone goal win over visiting Sharks of Port-Harcourt.

On a weekend all the away teams failed to score and were beaten, Bayelsa United went up to second place on 45 points with a 2-0 win over ABS of Ilorin.

Elsewhere, former league leaders Enyimba of Aba lost by a lone goal at Kwara United, dropping to fourth on 43 points, a point behind Kwara United. Warri Wolves got mauled 3-0 by El-Kanemi Warriors in Maiduguri, Shooting Stars were beaten 1-0 by Akwa United while Rangers fell to a 2-0 defeat at Dolphins in Port-Harcourt.

In the Barclays Premier League, former Manchester United forward Frazier Campbell’s headed brace helped Cardiff City come from a long range Edin Dzeko goal down and claim a 3-2 victory over Manchester City on Sunday, with Alvaro Negredo’s stoppage time goal for Man. City a mere consolation.

The win was Cardiff’s first at home in the top flight in half a century, and it thoroughly exposed just how much the injured Vincent Kompany is missed by the Citizens’ back four.

Elsewhere, Roberto Soldado’s second half penalty – his fourth goal in three games – was enough for Tottenham Hotspur to see off Swansea City while on Saturday evening, Liverpool once more had Daniel Sturridge and Simon Mignolet to thank in a lone goal win at Aston Villa.

In other results, Arsenal scored a 3-1 win at London neighbours Fulham, Newcastle United left out Yohan Cabaye again in a goalless draw with West Ham United, Mark Hughes’s Stoke City came from behind to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 and Sunderland got a 1-1 draw from their trip to Southampton.

South of England in France, title holders PSG got a 2-1 win at Nantes thanks to Edinson Cavani’s second league goal and Ezequel Lavezzi’s late winner. Archrivals Olympique Marseille now top the league with nine points after beating Valenciennes 1-0 courtesy of Andre Pierre Gignac’s late goal.

Billionaire newcomers Monaco dropped to second with seven points after being held to a goalless draw by Toulouse while erstwhile leaders Olympique Lyon fell to a shock 1-0 loss at home to Reims ahead of their difficult UEFA Champions League second leg playoff match at Real Sociedad in Spain.

The Spanish side drew 1-1 at Elche on Saturday in a La Liga match, dropping to sixth behind Espanyol on goal difference with the latter beating Valencia 3-1 in Catalunya. City rivals and title holders Barcelona maintained top spot with six points thanks to a lone goal win at Malaga.

Barça’s Spanish Super Cup opponents Atletico Madrid thrashed city rivals Rayo Vallecano 5-0 to go second with six points as well, while Athletic Bilbao and newly promoted Villarreal follow with six points too, with Bilbao beating Osasuna 2-0 while Villarreal got a 2-1 win over Real Valladolid.

Either of Granada or soon-to-sign-Bale Real Madrid could meanwhile join that quartet with a perfect record after two games, with a win when both sides meet tonight.

In Italy, the Serie A began with AC Milan stumbling to a 2-1 loss on Saturday at newly promoted Hellas Verona, whose goals were scored by veteran striker Luca Toni. Champions Juventus fared better soon after in a lone goal win at Sampdoria courtesy of a Carlos Tevez goal, in second in as many matches.

Elsewhere, Rafa Benitez’s Napoli reign started off with a convincing 3-0 win over Bologna, Inter Milan won 2-0 at home to Genoa as did Roma at Livorno, while Lazio got a 2-1 win over Udinese. The opening round of matches will be completed with Fiorentina’s match at home to Catania tonight.

And in Germany, Dortmund maintained their perfect start to the Bundesliga with a lone goal win over Werder Bremen, with rivals Bayern Munich doing same in a 2-0 pyhrric victory over city rivals Nurnberg, a match in which Mario Gotze made his debut for his Bavarians.

Schalke and Hamburg continued their bearish start to the season with respective 2-1 and 1-0 losses at Hannover 96 and newly promoted Hertha Berlin, results that left both clubs on one point after three matches with identical records in 15th and 16th place, ahead of another fumbling side Stuttgart that lost 2-1 at Augsburg and remain without a point.

One German racking up the points however is Sebastien Vettel, with the Formula 1 world champion opening a 46 point lead over nearest rival Fernando Alonso after winning his fifth race of the season at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Vettel, who never looked like relinquishing the lead after going past Lewis Hamilton in the first lap, finished the race a massive 16 seconds ahead of Alonso; despite being asked in the third lap to conserve his car for the rest of the race by his RedBull team, while Hamilton finished a somewhat disappointing third having began the race on pole.

On that dominant note, it’s a wrap from here. Manchester United host Chelsea tonight in the Premier League’s first big match-up,the US Open serves off today, Sociedad and Arsenal will be out to seal a Champions League group stage along with Shakter Karagandy that takes a 2-0 lead to Celtic aiming to pull off a historic upset.

Then the big one on Friday between Bayern Munich and Chelsea for the European Super Cup in Monte Carlo. Thiago Alcantara willl miss that match for Bayern, and six subsequent weeks with an ankle injury… but that hardly takes the shine off the Bayern team or the match itself. Looking forward to it.

Have a pleasant last week of August. God bless!

, , , , ,

2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: