Wednesday, 03 March 2021

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Lionel Messi soared past Luis Suarez to become La Liga’s top scorer on Wednesday by adding his 17th and 18th goals of the season in a much-needed 3-0 victory for Barcelona over Elche.

Barca had followed up last week’s crushing Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain by drawing at home to Cadiz on Sunday but eased the strain with a comfortable win at the Camp Nou.

Messi’s double owed much to a pair of superb assists, with a supreme dribble by Frenkie de Jong coming after a sublime flick from Martin Braithwaite, who also set up Jordi Alba to score a third.

After failing to take full advantage of league leaders Atletico Madrid’s defeat by Levante on Saturday, this victory puts Barcelona back in third, five points off the top, having played a game more than Atletico.

“We cannot lose any more,” said Ronald Koeman. “The problem was we were not good enough at the start and we have to win all the games now if we want to do something in the league.”

Even if Atletico prove too far ahead to catch, a positive performance was important, especially with a semi-final second leg to come next week against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey, which may be their only chance of winning a trophy this term.

Messi’s return to top form comes as a huge boost too. The 33-year-old came off unfavourably in comparisons made with Kylian Mbappe last week but these kinds of performances show he is far from finished yet.

This was Messi’s fifth and sixth goal in his last four games while no player from the top five European leagues has scored more than his 13 this year in all competitions. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is closest on 12.

“When we talk about old players, that’s not Leo,” said Koeman. “His quality and his game is still impressive. There are old players and then there are players that have to make the difference.

“He has shown again today that he is a very, very important player for this team.”

Francisco Trincao and Frenkie de Jong had early chances for Barcelona while Elche should have scored but Lucas Boye blazed over.

Yet a frantic opening gave way to a disjointed first half and Koeman reacted by bringing off the ineffective Miralem Pjanic at half-time and replacing him with Ousmane Dembele.

Barcelona scored within two minutes of the restart, Messi driving from midfield towards the area and rebounding off Braithwaite, whose sweeping flick behind his standing leg gave the scuttling Argentinian a simple finish.

Elche’s early threat had dissipated and Barca added two more in five minutes.

The first came from a breathtaking run from De Jong, who dribbled forward from the halfway line, past three Elche defenders, before cutting back for Messi. He glided past two more and prodded in.

Messi started the move for the third, with a familiar, curving pass to Braithwaite at the back post, whose cushioned header across found Alba unmarked in the middle.

Posted On Thursday, 25 February 2021 15:14 Written by

Super Eagles striker, Victor Osimhen, who was rushed to hospital following a clash of heads with an Atalanta player during their Serie A game at the weekend, has been allowed to go home. The Napoli star is however still being observed by medics.

Osimhen spent the night in Bergamo after suffering a head injury in the dying minutes of the Partenopei’s 4-2 loss at the Gewiss Stadium on Sunday evening.

Concern arose as the Nigerian suffered what appeared to be a mystery injury, and was run off the pitch on a stretcher and transferred to hospital.

Osimhen didn’t travel back to Campania with his Napoli teammates on Sunday evening, instead of staying overnight in the hospital while awaiting test results.

Yesterday, though, he was cleared to leave the hospital and is free to head home.

Osimhen has had his fair share of injury problems already this season, and a positive case of COVID-19 as well.

The centre-forward was afforded his 10th league appearance in the encounter since teaming up with the club last summer.

Osimhen made his contribution as Gennaro Gattuso’s men suffered their second consecutive defeat, after also losing against Granada in the Europa League.

With few minutes before the end of the game, the forward collided with Romero and fell awkwardly, hitting the back of his head on the turf before losing consciousness.

“Victor Osimhen, following the injury with head trauma suffered in the final minutes of Atalanta-Napoli, underwent tests with negative results,” read a statement from the club website. “The player will remain in Bergamo until tomorrow under the clinical observation of the blue health manager Raffaele Canonico.”

Although the club did not state the duration Osimhen would be on the sidelines, it is certain that the forward will miss Napoli’s second leg round of 32 of their Europa League game against Granada on Thursday.

Posted On Tuesday, 23 February 2021 18:14 Written by

Kamaru Usman Sunday morning defeated Gilbert Burns to retain his crown as the undisputed welterweight champion at UFC 258.

The bout was expected to last the duration but Usman’s superior power saw him kick out Burns in the third round, leaving his ormer training partner and friend in tears and with at least a cut below the eye.

“This was a very, very tough one because of the whole gym situation,” Usman said. “You cannot disrespect what Burns has done. We started together and he showed it tonight.”

The fight did not start all too well for Usman as Burns piled on the pressure early. But the Nigerian Nightmare regained his composure and took control, delivering some heavy strikes that pushed his opponent to the brink.

With the knock out of Burns, Usman has now won 17 straight fights, including 13 in the UFC, eclipsing St-Pierre’s record winning streak in the welterweight division.

The victory also handed him a tie with Khabib Nurmagomedov for most consecutive wins to start his UFC career, behind only Anderson Silva, who has 16 straight wins.

Usman has now defended his title three times. The last time out, he went against Jorge Masvidal, who was drafted in after Burns pulled out of their schedule fight late after testing positive for coronavirus.

Posted On Sunday, 14 February 2021 21:01 Written by

Paul Pogba said he is “always happy” when he is winning after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Burnley that took Manchester United top of the Premier League for the first time in three years on Tuesday.

Despite continued speculation over his future, Pogba has played an increasingly important role in recent weeks to aid United’s first serious title challenge since legendary former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men now lead defending champions Liverpool by three points ahead of a top-of-the-table clash between the two most successful sides in English football history at Anfield on Sunday.

“I’m always happy when I win,” said Pogba, who has been consistently linked with a move away from Old Trafford at the end of the season.

“I’m happy we are playing well and happy we are at the top, but there is a long way to go and we have big games coming up.”

United have now taken 29 from the last possible 33 points to recover from just two wins in their opening six games of the season.

The signing of Bruno Fernandes shortly after Burnley won 2-0 at Old Trafford nearly a year ago in the last meeting between the sides has transformed United’s fortunes.

And if Pogba can finally produce consistent displays worthy of the then world record fee United paid for the Frenchman in 2016, there is reason for Solskjaer to believe he can end the club’s eight-year wait for a league title.

“I’ve always said Paul is a big, big player for us,” added Solskjaer. “He is a good character in the dressing room, he is always one the lads look to (because) he’s a world champion.

“We are seeing the best of Paul at the moment. He’s getting better and better every game.”

The manner of victory against a Burnley side that had not lost at home since October also suggests United have the ability of champions to grind out a result when they need to.

The first-half was dominated by controversy over a series of VAR reviews as both sides escaped without having a man sent-off for challenges by Luke Shaw and Robbie Brady, while United had a goal harshly ruled out for a slight push by Harry Maguire when he powered home a header at the back post.

The visitors upped the pressure in the second-half and got their reward 19 minutes from time when Pogba’s volley from Marcus Rashford’s cross deflected off Matt Lowton and through the legs of Nick Pope to head to Anfield leading Liverpool.

“We couldn’t be going there at a better time to play them,” added Solskjaer. “We are in good shape, good form, hungry, these boys want to get better and that’s a test again.”

Everton win at Wolves

Everton moved back into the top four and within four points of United as they overcame an injury crisis to beat Wolves 2-1 at Molineux.

Carlo Ancelotti was forced to start without a recognised striker without Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison only fit enough for a place on the bench.

The Toffees took an early lead when Alex Iwobi converted Lucas Digne’s cross but were pegged back when Ruben Neves levelled for Wolves.

Michael Keane’s towering header won the game 13 minutes from time to bolster the Blues’ European ambitions.

“We adapted really well to the characteristics of the players we had,” said Ancelotti.

At the other end of the table, Sheffield United ended a 20-game winless league run as Billy Sharp’s penalty earned a 1-0 victory over 10-man Newcastle.

The Blades still face an uphill task to haul themselves off the bottom of the table as they sit nine points adrift of safety.

But Chris Wilder’s men ensured they will not set an unwanted record by going a full top-flight season without a win thanks to another night to forget for Newcastle.

“It looked like we got our identity back,” said Wilder. “It was us with the handbrake off, going for it and playing well in and out of possession.”

The Magpies could yet find themselves dragged into a relegation battle as they remain eight points above the drop zone in 15th, but have played two games more than Fulham in 18th.

Posted On Wednesday, 13 January 2021 03:59 Written by

Neymar played a leading part in the unprecedented anti-racism protest which saw Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir players leave the field in their Champions League match this week, and the Brazilian has also been living up to his status as the world’s most expensive player in recent weeks.

The former Barcelona superstar’s hat-trick in PSG’s 5-1 win over the Turks when the game restarted a day later included two goals that were simply out of this world.

Neymar had previously scored the winner against RB Leipzig and a brace in the 3-1 victory at Manchester United and his goals allowed the French champions to finish top of an awkward Champions League group.

He explained the decision to walk off in protest at the alleged use of a racist term by one of the Romanian match officials was something that “needed to be done to see if the world can change a little”. The images of him kneeling, with a clenched fist raised, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were powerful.

PSG supporters would also have been encouraged to hear the 28-year-old stress he is happy in Paris, a week after creating headlines by admitting he wanted to be on the same team as Lionel Messi next season.

“I am very happy here in Paris, at the club, with my teammates, so the idea of leaving is not going through my head, but people need things to talk about,” he told broadcaster RMC Sport.

“I am really happy and settled so let’s see what happens in the future.”

Like Kylian Mbappe — who recently scored his 100th PSG goal — Neymar’s contract runs until 2022 but PSG are hopeful the duo will sign new terms.

“We have started talking. It is all confidential but we are confident, both of them want to stay,” said PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi.

Mbappe and Neymar, who has scored or set up 65 goals in 65 Champions League matches, will lead PSG into a top-of-the-table Ligue 1 clash at home to in-form Lyon on Sunday.

The defending champions are top but the five teams below them are all within five points, with Lyon two points behind the leaders.

Player to watch: Angel di Maria
Forget Neymar and Mbappe, Di Maria was PSG’s best player in the last, curtailed French season. In fact, he has probably been their standout performer since the two most expensive signings in history arrived in August 2017.

However, the Argentine has lost his place in recent weeks. His only start in PSG’s last four games came when PSG fielded a second-string XI at Montpellier. In the win at Manchester United not only did he not come on, but he was also at one stage stripped for action only to be sent back to his seat.

Out of contract at the end of this season — a situation that has put the 32-year-old’s future in the spotlight — Di Maria will hope for a recall against Lyon.

Key stats
5 – Marseille has won their last five Ligue 1 games. Four points behind leaders PSG, they are on course to top the table if they win their two games in hand, but they face a tough test against Monaco on Saturday.

13 – After finishing 13th last season, Nantes this week parted company with coach Christian Gourcuff with the Canaries taking just 13 points from their first 13 games in this campaign. The eight-time French champions became the fourth club to change coach this season. One of the others, bottom side Dijon, are their opponents this weekend.

10 – Lyon is unbeaten in 10 games as they search for a first win at the Parc des Princes since 2007.

Fixtures (Kick-offs GMT)

Friday

Saint-Etienne v Angers (2000)

Saturday

Marseille v Monaco (1600), Lens v Montpellier (2000)

Sunday

Nice v Rennes (1200), Brest v Reims, Lorient v Nimes, Nantes v Dijon, Strasbourg v Metz (all 1400), Lille v Bordeaux (1600), Paris Saint-Germain v Lyon (2000)

Posted On Friday, 11 December 2020 19:20 Written by

The European qualifying competition begins in March, with 13 countries from the continent going through to the 32-team finals.

There will be three rounds of fixtures in March, three more in September, and two each in October and November.

That will only increase pressure on a fixture calendar that is already packed, especially with the postponed Euro 2020 set to go ahead in June and July.

That means a team that reaches the final of Euro 2020 can expect to play 17 competitive games between March and November next year.

Only the winners of the 10 groups will qualify automatically for the finals, which are to take place in November and December of 2022.

The 10 runners-up will go into play-offs alongside the two best Nations League group winners who miss out on qualifying via the traditional path.

Those play-offs, in March 2022, will produce three more qualifiers in total.

Germany, whose coach Joachim Loew has been under severe pressure after poor recent results for the 2014 World Cup winners, will be expected to come through a group in which Romania and Iceland appear their main threats.

Reigning European champions Portugal’s main opposition will come from Serbia and the Republic of Ireland in Group A. Cristiano Ronaldo will be 37 by the time the finals come around.

Spain notably drew Sweden and Greece in Group B, while Italy must take on Switzerland in Group C.

Belgium, the world’s top-ranked team, will meet Wales. The sides met in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals with Wales coming out on top.

“We are not going to complain about the draw,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

“It will also be an emotional reunion for me because it was in Wales, at Swansea, where I started my coaching career in 2007.”

After qualifying for Euro 2020 to reach their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, Scotland was handed just about as kind a draw as possible on the road to 2022 as they were placed in Group F with Denmark and Austria.

“We have to be happy with the draw but very, very wary that it will be a dangerous draw as well,” said Scotland manager Steve Clarke, whose side also face familiar foe Israel, the Faroe Islands, and Moldova.

World Cup qualifying has already started elsewhere.

There will be four direct qualifiers from Asia to join hosts Qatar, four from South America, while Africa has five qualifiers.

Three teams will progress from the North, Central America, and Caribbean zone, with the remaining two berths awarded to the winners of intercontinental play-offs in June 2022.

Posted On Monday, 07 December 2020 23:30 Written by

Napoli players took to the pitch wearing a special Argentina-inspired jersey on Sunday in honour of club legend Diego Maradona, going on to crush Serie A rivals Roma 4-0 in his memory.

Captain Lorenzo Insigne curled in a free-kick after half an hour, celebrating his goal by holding up and kissing the No. 10 jersey of the Argentina legend, who died aged 60 on Wednesday.

“It’s sure these days after Maradona’s death have given us an extra boost, our idol has passed away and it hurts,” said Insigne.

“Today we wanted more than usual to perform and get a result, for him and for the whole city that is suffering. We dedicate the victory to him.”

Napoli’s jersey with white and light blue vertical stripes, was specially designed to pay tribute to Napoli’s legendary number 10 who led the club to their only league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.

Insigne added: “Tonight’s game must be a starting point, if we play like this we can beat anyone.

“Head down and work, we can do great things.”

Players also wore black armbands, with a minute’s silence observed before the game, as in all matches in Italy, in memory of Maradona who spent seven years at Napoli.

A photo of the former Argentina star was projected onto giant screens in the 10th minute, as players stopped to applaud.

Fabian Ruiz added a second just after an hour with club record goalscorer Dries Mertens slotting in a third with 10 minutes to go.

Substitute Matteo Politano added a fourth with a solo run through the Roma defence four minutes from time as the side from the capital fell to their first away defeat this season.

Napoli, who had lost two in a row at home, overtook Roma to move fifth in Serie A, with both teams equal on 17 points after nine games.

AC Milan are top of the table with 23 points after extending their unbeaten run this season by winning 2-0 against Fiorentina.

The launch of Napoli’s new jersey had already been planned before Maradona’s death, the club said.

“A year ago, together with Kappa, we thought of designing a special jersey that echoes Diego Maradona, his beloved Argentina and the very strong bond with the people of Naples,” Napoli said in a statement.

“Together we hoped that Diego could see it, maybe wear it and share in the excitement with us.”

“The shirt that will be worn by the players… will have an even greater significance than initially assumed,” it added.

On Thursday, Napoli players took to the pitch wearing Maradona’s iconic number 10 jersey before their 2-0 Europa League win over Croatian side Rijeka.

The Stadio San Paolo is expected to soon be renamed after the 1986 World Cup winner following a suggestion made by the Mayor of Napoli.

Posted On Monday, 30 November 2020 21:43 Written by

Robert Lewandowski claimed his 15th goal this season in all competitions as Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich came from behind to claim a 3-1 win at Stuttgart on Saturday.

Stuttgart striker Tanguy Coulibaly, 19, fired the hosts into a shock early lead after a cross caught Bayern center-backs David Alaba and Jerome Boateng napping.

However, Kingsley Coman equalised with a superb low finish before Lewandowski drilled home from 20 metres to put Bayern 2-1 up at the break.

Brazil winger Douglas Costa, a second-half replacement for Coman, grabbed Bayern’s third goal late on to seal a win which leaves the holders two points clear of RB Leipzig.

Stuttgart’s German defender Waldemar Anton (C) and Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (R) vie for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match VfB Stuttgart v FC Bayern Munich in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on November 28, 2020. (Photo by THOMAS KIENZLE / various sources / AFP)

Dortmund is third, four points behind Bayern, after crashing to a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Cologne.

Tunisia midfielder Ellyes Skhiri tapped in both Cologne goals from corners by ex-Dortmund winger Marius Wolf after being left unmarked at the far post on both occasions.

With Dortmund 2-0 down on 60 minutes, coach Lucien Favre brought on three forwards — 16-year-old sensation Youssoufa Moukoko, Giovanni Reyna, and Thorgan Hazard.

Reyna, 18, set up Hazard to pull a goal back, but it was too little, too late.

After scoring six goals in his previous two games, Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland was held in check, squandering a golden chance to equalise just before the whistle.

Cologne avoided a club record 19th match without a win with their first victory in Dortmund since 1991.

Leipzig climbed above Dortmund to second, two points behind Bayern, thanks to a 2-1 home win over plucky strugglers Arminia Bielefeld.

Manchester City loanee Angelino gave Leipzig a first-half lead after a superb pass by 18-year-old Lazar Samardzic split the Bielefeld defence.

Just 60 seconds after coming off the bench, forward Christopher Nkunku netted Leipzig’s second goal early in the second half.

However, Bielefeld, who is second from the bottom, finished the stronger.

Their captain Fabian Klos pulled a goal back, just after Leipzig striker Alexander Sorloth had his penalty attempt saved on 73 minutes.

The Norway international bought to replace Timo Werner who joined Chelsea in the summer is yet to score in 10 games for Leipzig after netting 24 goals in 34 games for Trabzonspor last season.

Union Berlin is sixth after their action-packed 3-3 draw at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Max Kruse converted a penalty as Union raced into an early 2-0 lead, only for Portugal forward Andre Silva to net twice as Frankfurt led 3-2 late on.

Former Germany striker Kruse, 32, bagged a superb strike to claim his sixth goal in nine games to equalise just before the whistle.

Freiburg is winless in their last eight games after a 1-1 draw at Augsburg.

Wolfsburg is fifth after their 5-3 win over Werder Bremen on Friday.

Dutch striker Wout Weghorst struck twice for Wolfsburg while Bremen had goalscorer Kevin Moehwald sent off for a second booking.

Posted On Sunday, 29 November 2020 02:51 Written by

By Abankula/ PM NEWS

Nigeria’s Super Eagles have landed in Freetown for their African Nations Cup qualifying match with the Leone Stars on Tuesday.

It is not an ordinary qualifying match.

It is a redemption match for the Eagles, to salvage their image.

The Eagles squandered a 4-0 lead against the Leone Stars on Saturday at Ogbe Stadium in Benin.

Nigerian fans and the players were embarrassed as the Leone stars clawed their way back into the game, forcing a 4-4 draw.

Captain Ahmed Musa had since apologised for the blunder, pledging an improvement in Freetown.

William Troost-Ekong, one of the Eagles said: “It is our Naija spirit to overcome and succeed. Hungry and ready for redemption Tuesday”.

The Eagles left Nigeria earlier today, and upon landing at the Lungi International Airport were ferried to the city.

According to reports, the Eagles will be training at Siaka Stevens Stadium today at 5.45pm Nigerian time for the cracker with the hosts.

The match will be played at 1700 Nigerian time on Tuesday.

Nigeria has a thin lead in Group I with seven points.

Second placed member of the group, Benin Republic has six points.

Sierra Leone has two and Lesotho just one point.

One of the Super Eagles disembarking in Freetown

Super Eagles in Freetown

The Super Eagles, the airline crew on landing at Lungi International Airport in Freetown

Captain Ahmed Musa at training in Nigeria before departure to Freetown

Posted On Tuesday, 17 November 2020 02:44 Written by

Former National Basketball Association All-Star, “Fast” Eddie Johnson, who was hit with a lifetime ban from the NBA for drug use and jailed for sexual assault is dead.

He died while serving a life sentence after he was sent to prison for sexual assault of a child.

He was 53-year-old when he got a mandatory life sentence in 2008 after he was found guilty of sexual assault on an 8-year-old girl

The former NBA star was serving the life sentence at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton, Florida when an undisclosed illness led to his death.

His death was confirmed on Tuesday, November 3rd by Rocker-Cusack Mortuary in Leesburg, Florida.

Johnson, who was a third-round pick from Auburn by the Hawks in the 1977 NBA draft, became an immediate contributor and then starter for the Hawks.

Johnson averaged 15.1 points in 10 NBA seasons he received a lifetime suspension from the NBA in 1987 for his cocaine use.

The mortuary announced that Johnson will be buried at Weirsdale (Florida) Community Cemetery on Saturday.

Posted On Thursday, 05 November 2020 13:52 Written by
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