Tuesday, 03 August 2021



Sports (315)

Surprise French champions Lille beat Cup winners Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the Champions Trophy season curtain raiser in balmy Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Portuguese midfielder Xeka scored the winner just before half-time with an unstoppable strike from outside the penalty area that left PSG stopper Keylor Navas no chance.

“We showed who we are and we deserve this trophy,” said Xeka.

“A few months after the league title we can all celebrate this new one. Work pays, and that’s how we intend to continue.”

Having won the previous eight Champions Trophy matches, PSG arrived in Tel Aviv Saturday without Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Angel di Maria as well as new star signings Spanish defender Sergio Ramos and Italian ‘keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

A positive test for Covid-19 ruled out PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye.

There was a lively debut for Georginio Wijnaldum signed from Liverpool on a free transfer and who came on with twenty minutes to play.

PSG had their chances and Mauro Icardi had the ball in the Lille goal on 76 minutes, twisting a deft clip from close range, but what would have been a peach of an equaliser was ruled off side.

Lille brought a strong side and took the game to the Parisians, who they pipped to the French title last season by a single point in a tense run-in.

New Lille coach Jocelyn Gourvennec thanked his predecessor Christophe Galtier for his work and said the new title was partly his too.

“PSG play an amazing technical game, but our lads were ready athletically and our collective play was tight. The team knows what it’s doing,” he said.

The match was the first domestic football aired in France by streaming giant Amazon.

Some 27,500 fans were on hand to see the game at Bloomfield Stadium, home of Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv, on a baking evening with regular water breaks for players with the temperature at 29C (84F.)

Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams brought the French season-opener to Israel.

The entrepreneur who runs the cycling outfit Israel Start-Up Nation said the host nation would emerge a winner from staging the contest.

Posted On Sunday, 01 August 2021 22:47 Written by

By Ifeanyi Ibeh 30 July 2021 | 6:18 am/ GUARDIAN.NG

…It’s the first time two Nigerians will be racing in the 100m semis since 2012

For the first time since 2012, two Nigerian athletes will be running in the semifinals of the women’s 100m after Blessing Okagbare and Nzubechi Grace Nwokocha qualified from their respective heats Friday in Tokyo, Japan.

Nwokocha had to run a new personal best of 11.00 seconds to secure her qualification to the semis in what is her debut Olympic Games.

The 20-year-old has also moved into fifth in the Nigeria all-time list behind Okagbare (10.79), Glory Alozie (10.90), Mary Onyali (10.97), and Damola Osayomi (10.99.

The Nigerian-based athlete, who ran 11.09s personal best at the time, back in March, to secure her qualification for the Olympics at the MOC Grand Prix in Lagos, will, however, need to make further history by breaking the 11-second barrier to stand a chance of joining Onyali and Okagbare as debutants who ran to the final of the 100m event.

She has been drawn to run from lane nine in the third semifinal heat with the fastest woman alive, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Daryl Neita of Great Britain, Teahna Daniels of the USA and fellow African, Muriel Ahoure, of the Ivory Coast.

While Nwokocha qualified for her first semifinal, Okagbare will be running in her third since she made her debut in the event at the 2012 Olympics in London.

The 32-year-old ran 11.05 seconds to win her first-round heat.

She has been drawn in the first semifinal heat alongside two heavyweights of the event, defending champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica, who ran 10.82s to win her first-round heat, and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, the 200m world champion two years ago in Doha, Qatar, who ran 11.07s to come second in her first-round heat.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics long jump silver medallist will be in action at exactly 11.15 am Nigerian time on Saturday.

Posted On Friday, 30 July 2021 23:02 Written by

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on Saturday, has provided a brief update on the status of the club’s contract negotiations with Paul Pogba.

Sancho in/Varane to follow?

Ongoings on the red half of Manchester have of course taken centre stage in the media of late.

This comes as Solskjaer and co. go about building a squad capable of mounting a sustained challenge for the Premier League title over the season to come.

Thus far, the most high-profile arrival at Old Trafford has come in the form of Jadon Sancho, after the Red Devils finally struck a deal with Borussia Dortmund worth a fee believed to be in the region of 73 million pounds.

The board at the Theatre of Dreams, though, look far from ready to rest on their laurels.

Moves for both a midfielder and defender have also been touted, with the current favourite to fill the role of the latter coming in the form of Real Madrid stalwart Raphael Varane.

Pogba latest

As such, it goes without saying that things are looking up at Old Trafford ahead of the 2021/22 campaign getting underway.

Continuous speculation surrounding the future of key midfielder Paul Pogba has therefore come as something of a surprise.

Recent weeks have seen media reports push the narrative that the World Cup winner is leaning away from putting pen to paper on a new United contract, despite the club finally beginning to build a squad around him which looks capable of challenging for major honours.

The current favourites to land Pogba, meanwhile, come in the form of big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite having already added the likes of Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Achraf Hakimi to the club’s ranks this summer, it has been suggested that the French giants remain keen to lure Pogba back to his home country.

On Saturday, however, one particular section of the PSG faithful have made crystal clear their feelings regarding the possibility of the United star joining the club.

Posted On Saturday, 24 July 2021 22:31 Written by

By: Hans Themistode

Unlike previous opponents, Jermell Charlo found Brian Castano a much more difficult combatant to deal with.

The two stood mostly toe to toe at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas last night. On the line, was Charlo’s WBC, WBA, IBF and Ring Magazine 154 pound titles – while Castano pushed his WBO belt to the middle of the table in a winner take all contest.

After appearing to fall behind early on the cards, Charlo rallied back in the second half of their contest. Still, the Houstonian’s comeback fell short of his desired results as he was forced to settle for a split decision draw.

While he was unhappy with the results, Charlo promises that in the sequel, he’ll be sure to place an exclamation point on his performance.

“I think I knock him out in the rematch,” said Charlo during an interview with FightHype.com following the draw.

Charlo’s prediction of a stoppage win in their inevitable rematch almost came to fruition last night. In the second, tenth and throughout the entirety of their showdown, Charlo visibly stunned his man. Admittedly, Castano tipped his cap to his Charlo and confirmed that he was in fact buzzed and needed time to recover.

In terms of the total body of work, Castano had the slight edge. The Argentinian native threw more punches, 586 to 533 and landed more, 173 to 151.

At times, Charlo was pressed against the ropes with nowhere to go. He would then cover up as Castano unloaded bombs in his direction. The unified 154-pound titlist didn’t result to letting his hands go, however. Instead, he picked his spots and landed the more powerful shots throughout.

While he’s incredulous at the way the fight was scored overall, Charlo still flashed a bright smile as he walked away with his world titles still tucked safely underneath his arms. Although Charlo has always opted for punch placement and timing as opposed to throwing countless shots, in the predestined rematch, the Houston native fully intends on coming out a bit more aggressive.

“I’ll be way more active, way more stronger and have way more confidence.”

Posted On Sunday, 18 July 2021 21:54 Written by

An insight into those present in Arsenal’s pre-season squad, and the club’s plans for their upcoming tour of Scotland, has been forthcoming on Monday.

Emirates influx?

Mikel Arteta’s men are of course currently ramping up preparations for the new season.

After enduring something of a nightmare campaign last time out, which saw the Gunners stutter to an 8th-placed Premier League finish, all associated with the club will no doubt have their sights set considerably higher for 2021/22.

To this point in the summer, the vast majority of the chatter when it comes to ongoings on the red half of North London has surrounded potential additions to Arteta’s ranks.

This comes with the Arsenal boss evidently of the opinion that his side remains in need of significant reinforcement, if a top-4 challenge is to develop next time out.

Links, thus far, have revolved chiefly around defenders and central midfielders, with deals for both Brighton star Ben White and Anderlect talent Sambi Lokonga understood to be close to completion:

First look at Tavares

What, though, of those already part of the Gunners’ squad?

Well, as outlined above, on Monday, an insight has been provided into the panel of players set to travel with Arteta and the club’s coaching staff as part of an upcoming trip to Scotland.

As confirmed by the reliable Charles Watts of Goal.com, amongst the travelling continent are:

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, Thomas Partey, Emile Smith Rowe, Hector Bellerin, Cedric Soares, Rob Holding, Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari.

Other noteworthy inclusions come in the form of Joe Willock, fresh off a thoroughly impressive loan stint with Newcastle United, January signing Omar Rekik (if his latest Instagram stories are anything to go by) and recent addition Nuno Tavares.

In the case of the latter, whose Emirates switch was made official over the weekend, it is added that the Portuguese is likely to be handed his first-team debut in a friendly meeting with Hibernian on Tuesday night.

Arsenal will round out their 5-day trip up north in a meeting with Rangers on Saturday.

Posted On Tuesday, 13 July 2021 01:03 Written by

There are a couple of recorded confessions by a teenage Romelu Lukaku – during his first stint with Chelsea – that say plenty about his character. After Chelsea won the FA Cup in 2012, Lukaku refused to celebrate with the trophy because he hadn’t really contributed to the win – with just one substitute appearance in the campaign. “When (Salomon) Kalou put the cup on my lap in the bus, I asked him to take it away immediately. I didn’t want to touch it,” Lukaku is quoted as saying. Same story a fortnight later too, after Chelsea won their maiden Champions League in Munich. When asked “why”, the Belgian told BBC: “It wasn’t me, but my team that won.”

Over the next many years, Lukaku would go on to cop massive amounts of criticism for all kinds of unwarranted stuff. Not just for his attitude and size (Gary Neville infamously called him “overweight and unprofessional”) but also over his race (Lukaku wrote in The Player’s Tribune about how, when things weren’t going well, he was always “the Belgian striker of Congolese descent”). But what ostensibly stung more than disparaging remarks was the fact that Lukaku had gone trophyless since leaving Anderlecht as a kid – despite playing for many great football clubs and a great country.

Until May this year, that is. Lukaku’s 24 goals in the Serie A (only Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo scored more) earned Inter Milan their first title in 11 years and was the Belgian’s first trophy as an adult. But the Scudetto did more than just end Lukaku’s title drought, it broke Juventus’s nine-season stranglehold on the league. A genuine challenger to the throne also ended up inspiring neighbours AC Milan and Atalanta to take aim at the giants as well (and both finished above Juventus), which only made the club scene in Italy eminently more exciting.

That revival of Italian club football has had a tremendous impact on the ongoing European Championship. Not only is Ronaldo still topping the Golden Boot race with 5 goals, but also out of the remaining eight countries, half have Serie A players as their leading goal-scorers (or joint leading scorer). Belgium (Inter’s Lukaku), Spain (Juventus’s Alvaro Morata), Denmark (Atalanta’s Joakim Maehle) and Italy of course, with all their tournament-scorers in Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli) and Matteo Pessina (Atalanta) playing at home.

Atalanta alone can be a good measure of Serie A’s impact on Euro 2020, with four players from their ranks finding the back of the net for different countries. That is just one less player than Manchester City’s goalscorers in this tournament. Not bad then for a club that was in the second division of Italian football as recently as 2011.

But before a squad studded with players from resurrected Serie A clubs can fully revive the Azzurri they have to get past the best that Italian club football has to offer in Lukaku. He may cut a lone figure of greatness in a Belgian squad that could lose Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne to injuries in the quarter-final, but don’t underestimate Lukaku’s hunger – especially after the Scudetto whet his appetite.

“It was important for me to start winning trophies,” said Lukaku before Belgium’s first knockout match, against Portugal. “The Serie A title with Inter gave me motivation and now I also want to win with the Red Devils too.’’

With Red Devils Manchester United, Lukaku spent two excruciating and trophyless seasons of having his class questioned. But for Red Devils as in ‘Diables Rouges’, or Belgium, he is admittedly as good as it gets. Lukaku said so himself last week when he deadpanned: “Well, now I’m world-class too.”

Posted On Thursday, 01 July 2021 17:24 Written by

AC Milan are close to re-signing Brahim Diaz from Real Madrid on a season-long loan with the option to buy, reputed journalist Fabrizio Romano reports.

The 21-year-old spent last season on loan with the Rossoneri, registering seven goals and four assists from 39 appearances in all competitions.

The Spaniard was in-and-out of the league plans but was a regular starter in the final weeks of the season as the club finished in the top four.

The Rossoneri are now close to finalising another temporary deal for the Manchester City graduate with an option to buy at the end of the campaign.

Los Blancos are understood to want a buy-back option as part of the transfer.

Sportslens view:

The Rossoneri are back in the Champions League after a seven-year wait, and they will be aiming to keep the core of the squad together.

Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu are set to leave on free transfers, but they are in a good position concerning other players.

Diaz was influential in the final phase of last season, and he could play a more dominant role with Calhanoglu on his way out of the club.

The Spain Under-21 international showed good promise for the Rossoneri last term with his ability to play in the number 10 role or out wide.

Milan have also made a similar transfer proposal for Manchester United’s Diogo Dalot, but the Red Devils are not keen on doing business.

United have been unsuccessful in signing Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier. Dalot could get the chance to compete with Aaron Wan-Bissaka for the right-back role next term.

Posted On Monday, 21 June 2021 13:48 Written by

Germany got their Euro 2020 campaign back on track and blew Group F wide open with a 4-2 romp against Portugal in Munich on Saturday.

France’s 1-1 draw with Hungary earlier in Budapest and Germany’s win mean there is all to play for in Wednesday’s final group games when the Germans host Hungary and the French meet holders Portugal.

After Cristiano Ronaldo claimed his 107th international goal, leaving him two short of Ali Daei’s all-time record, to give Portugal an early lead, the Germans roared back with four unanswered goals.

German pressure forced own goals by Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro to put the hosts 2-1 up at half-time.

A Kai Havertz goal underlined Germany’s dominance before left-back Robin Gosens capped his man-of-the-match display by heading in Germany’s fourth goal to add to his two assists.

Portugal hit back when Diogo Jota tapped in Ronaldo’s hooked volley to make it 4-2 with 23 minutes left.

Germany continued their domination of Portugal, who they have now beaten five consecutive times at World Cup or European Championship finals since Euro 2000.

Germany created a huge amount of chances compared to Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by France, while Portugal lacked the composure of their 3-0 win over Hungary the same day.

The match began at a frantic pace amid sweltering conditions in the Bavarian capital.

The Germans had a goal disallowed after five minutes when VAR spotted Serge Gnabry was offside as Gosens hit a spectacular volley.

However, sloppy Germany defending saw Portugal take the lead.

With only Gosens and Havertz defending at a German corner, Bernardo Silva started a counter-attack, then picked out Jota in the area with a world-class pass.

The Liverpool forward squared to Ronaldo, who sprinted into the box to slot the ball past Germany captain Manuel Neuer with less than 15 minutes gone.

It was Ronaldo’s first goal against Germany to extend his record tally to 12 goals at five European Championship finals.

However, two own goals inside four minutes turned the game.

Germany drew level when another Gosens volley was flicked towards the net by Havertz, with Dias getting the final touch as the ball flew past Rui Patricio on 35 minutes.

The second goal soon followed when Guerreiro turned Kimmich’s cross into his own net while trying to stop the ball reaching the on-rushing German forwards.

Gosens caused Portugal problems all afternoon on the left flank.

His low cross was tapped in by Havertz six minutes after the break.

The Atalanta player then capped a superb display by powering in a close-range header from Kimmich’s cross on the hour mark.

German fans sang their approval, with “Oh, wie ist das schoen” (oh, is that beautiful) echoing around the Allianz Arena.

Gosens was substituted soon after with his name being chanted.

Portugal pulled a goal back when Guerreiro’s free-kick was hooked back by Ronaldo and turned in by Jota.

Germany nearly claimed a late fifth goal when Havertz’s replacement Leon Goretzka fired over after another surging attack by the hosts.

This is the first time Portugal have conceded four goals since losing 4-0 to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

Posted On Saturday, 19 June 2021 18:56 Written by

Manchester United standout Bruno Fernandes has this weekend opened up on his ‘regret’ at not yet being able to sit down for a proper conversation with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Fernandes dazzling

Gifted midfielder Fernandes of course made the move to Old Trafford on transfer deadline in January of last year.

And whilst, at the time, there was understandable excitement surrounding his arrival, few could have predicted just how significant an impact the Portuguese would go on to have on the fortunes of his new side.

Fernandes has played an absolutely central role for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United since his arrival, having added a new dimension of guile and creativity to the club’s midfield.

All told, across 22 appearances in his first half-season in Manchester, the former Sporting CP man directly contributed to 20 goals.

The current campaign, to this point, meanwhile, has seen Fernandes’ production continue at a frankly staggering rate, with the 26-year-old having, at times, almost single-handedly carried a hit-and-miss Red Devils outfit through moments of individual brilliance.

‘Speak with him like I would like to’

Fernandes’ exploits, in turn, have of course seen him quickly secure cult hero status at Old Trafford, with many of a United persuasion hopeful that their midfield star will some day take over as club captain.

And, as outlined above, the deep bond between club and player appears to be very much mutual.

Speaking in an interview with Inside United this weekend, Fernandes was drawn on whether or not he has yet been afforded the opportunity to speak with Sir Alex Ferguson, since arriving in Manchester.

And the 26-year-old went on to admit that he has not, labelling the situation one of his ‘biggest regrets’, having grown up as a fan of the Red Devils during the legendary tactician’s time in charge:

‘So, that is one of my biggest regrets in the club until now.’

‘I met him already but never had the chance to speak with him like I would like to do.’

‘I think everyone who watched Manchester United in the past remembers Sir Alex. [That is true] for me, growing up and seeing the club, being a fan of the club and seeing the development of the team.’

‘I would like to have a conversation with him and understand, from his point of view, what he thinks about me and what I can improve or still improve in my game to be better.’

Posted On Sunday, 16 May 2021 17:12 Written by

West Ham United are keen on Southampton striker Danny Ings, according to Sunday Mirror.

The Hammers want to sign a number nine after failing to replace Sebastien Haller in January and have identified striking targets ahead of the summer transfer window.

Southampton are hoping Ings will sign a new deal with just a year left on his current contract.

However, they would demand £30 million for his signature if he insists on leaving.

West Ham are not the only club keen on Ings, with Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton also monitoring developments.

The 28-year-old has bagged 12 goals in 27 Premier League games this term and is expected to be included in England’s European Championship squad this summer.

Ings is unwilling to sign a new deal with Southampton that would make him the highest earner at the club.

It is unclear whether he would view a move to West Ham as an upgrade, although the lure of playing in Europe could be tempting.

Joining Man City may also be enticing, with the club offering him the chance to work under Pep Guardiola and regularly challenge for silverware.

Everton and Spurs have established first-choice strikers in Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Harry Kane, meaning Ings could struggle for game time with either club.

On that basis, West Ham may be Ings’ most viable option, given that they desperately need to find a replacement for Haller this summer.

Posted On Sunday, 16 May 2021 17:03 Written by
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