Saturday, 24 February 2018

ARTS AND CULTURE

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Pep Guardiola’s quest to win an unprecedented quadruple with Manchester City came to a stunning and controversial end when they fell to a 1-0 defeat at third-tier Wigan in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday.

In an uncanny repeat of the 2013 FA Cup final, in which City had a player sent off before losing to a late Wigan winner, Guardiola’s side had Fabian Delph dismissed amid stormy scenes before Will Grigg’s 79th-minute goal decided the game.

A famous night was marred, however, by a post-match pitch invasion by Wigan supporters which saw a number of them confront City players, with striker Sergio Aguero required to defend himself.

Earlier the drama had been provided by Northern Ireland international Grigg who capitalised on an error by Kyle Walker who allowed a pass to run through to the Wigan man and kept ahead of John Stones before finishing clinically from just inside the area.

It was only City’s second defeat to English opposition since losing an FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal last April while their opponents can now look forward to a quarter-final home tie with Southampton.

The pivotal sending-off arrived in first half injury-time when Fabian Delph made a rash challenge on Wigan’s Max Power, prompting referee Anthony Taylor to pull a yellow card out of his pocket before changing his mind and producing red.

That infuriated City players, who surrounded the referee, and the dispute spilled into the rival technical areas with Sergio Aguero having to be dragged away by Guardiola as he argued furiously with Wigan coaches.

The scene turned even uglier, with television cameras in the tunnel capturing footage of Guardiola and Wigan manager Paul Cook in a major verbal confrontation and being kept apart by staff.

Wasteful Aguero

City might have enjoyed a far more comfortable evening had their record goalscorer Aguero not missed a golden opportunity after just two minutes, heading over Bernardo Silva’s pinpoint cross from just six yards.

And home keeper Christian Walton needed to be alert a few moments later, diving smartly to parry away a fierce strike from Ilkay Gundogan.

Guardiola had made six changes for the tie, while still fielding a strong line-up, but two of his fringe players — full-back Danilo and back-up goalkeeper Claudio Bravo were guilty of errors which offered the hosts a glimmer of hope.

First Bravo and Danilo dithered in dealing with the ball, almost presenting Gareth Roberts with a chance on the six-yard line.

And then Danilo was robbed of the ball by Roberts, the ball breaking for Grigg who raced half the length of the field before shooting into the side-netting.

City were enjoying the bulk of possession but, without the rested Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, were struggling to create clear chances.

They came close, from Leroy Sane’s 26th-minute corner which Gundogan flicked across the six-yard area, but defender Aymeric Laporte failed to connect with the ball at his feet.

When City next threatened, after Stones headed down Delph’s cross, Fernandinho’s shot rose over by some distance when he looked certain to score.

Gundogan and Danilo, twice, also threatened the Wigan goal and Walton saved superbly from an Aguero drive, moments before the explosive dismissal of Delph.

Guardiola brought on England right-back Walker as a half-time substitute, moving Danilo over to Delph’s vacant left-back spot.

Despite their disadvantage, City still enjoyed the majority of possession although, apart from Chey Dunkley blocking a Danilo shot, there was little to concern Walton as the tie approached the 65-minute mark and Guardiola opted to bring De Bruyne into the fray.

The Belgian’s introduction brought a far greater threat from City, particularly from set-pieces.

On 73 minutes, De Bruyne found Aguero at the near-post but his shot was blocked and Danilo maintained the pressure with a low centre across the goalline before Grigg’s dramatic intervention.

Posted On Tuesday, 20 February 2018 00:38 Written by

Arsenal’s record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on his debut and Aaron Ramsey hit a hat-trick in a swaggering 5-1 rout of woeful Everton on Saturday.

Aubameyang vowed to emulate Arsenal legend Thierry Henry after arriving from Borussia Dortmund for £56 million ($79 million, 63 million euros) this week.

While it is too soon for such lofty comparisons, the Gabon striker certainly made the perfect first impression at the Emirates Stadium.

Aubameyang, recovered from an illness that had placed his debut in doubt, capped an exhilarating first half from Arsenal with a composed finish to put his side four goals ahead.

Ramsey had opened the scoring and Laurent Koscielny increased Arsenal’s lead before Ramsey struck again to make it three goals in the first 19 minutes.

Aubameyang’s lively debut was aided by three assists from Henrikh Mkhitaryan in his first Arsenal start.

Wales midfielder Ramsey completed his treble in the second half and the only angst for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was the sight of goalkeeper Petr Cech limping off injured.

Sixth-placed Arsenal are now five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who face Watford on Monday, in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish.

Wenger had bemoaned Arsenal’s defending in their wretched 3-1 loss at Swansea on Tuesday, but the two changes he made were both attack-minded as Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan came in.

Aubameyang replaced misfiring France striker Alexandre Lacazette, who has only one goal in his last 12 appearances.

Lacazette had been Arsenal’s record signing until the Aubameyang swoop, but while he has struggled to live up to expectations, Aubameyang quickly set about repaying his hefty transfer fee — with help from an old friend.

Mkhitaryan was making his home debut after arriving from Manchester United as part of the deal that sent Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford.

Mkhitaryan rarely showed his best form with United, but he and Aubameyang had formed a deadly double act during their time at Dortmund and they were back in the groove as Arsenal took a sixth-minute lead.

When Aubameyang slipped a pass into Mkhitaryan, the midfielder whipped over a superb cross that invited Ramsey, timing his run perfectly, to slot past Jordan Pickford from close-range for his first goal since October.

Aubameyang joins party
Mkhitaryan went close to doubling Arsenal’s lead moments later with a fierce strike that whistled wide from the edge of the area.

Lethargic Everton were unable to stem the tide and Wenger’s men didn’t have to wait long to claim their second goal in the 14th minute.

Shkodran Mustafi met Mesut Ozil’s corner with a header towards the far post, where Koscielny stooped to head home from close-range.

Everton’s dismal display was ruining Sam Allardyce’s 500th match as a Premier League manager and there was worse to come in the 19th minute.

Afforded time and space by Everton’s statuesque rearguard, Ramsey unloaded a 25-yard strike that took a deflection off Toffees debutant Eliaquim Mangala on its way past the wrong-footed Pickford.

With Arsenal threatening every time they went forward, Aubameyang, who also scored on his Bundesliga debut, was able to join the party in the 37th minute.

Mkhitaryan’s pass split the Everton defence and, although Aubameyang looked offside, the linesman’s flag stayed down as the debutant clipped a deft finish over Pickford.

It was another remarkable goal blitz from Arsenal, who scored four times in the first 22 minutes of their previous home league game against Crystal Palace.

Everton’s capitulation made it a depressing return for Theo Walcott, who was subbed midway through the second half of his first return to Arsenal since his January transfer.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin got one back for Everton with a 64th header, but there was still time for Ramsey to strike again with a low finish from Mkhitaryan’s pass in the 74th minute.

Posted On Sunday, 04 February 2018 02:25 Written by

Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s late equaliser for Burnley denied Manchester City victory for only the fourth time in the Premier League this season as Pep Guardiola’s side paid the price for missing a host of chances.

City took the lead through a long-range Danilo strike but failed to turn their dominance into further goals.

BBC reports that Raheem Sterling was guilty of their worst miss when he failed to find the target from six yards after meeting Kyle Walker’s cross at the far post.

Burnley, lifted by a home crowd buoyed by Sterling’s miss, had gone close through Ben Mee and Aaron Lennon, who were both denied by brilliant Ederson saves, but there was no stopping Gudmundsson’s effort.

He ran into the box to meet Matthew Lowton’s cross with a powerful half-volley that City’s Brazilian goalkeeper got a hand to, but could not keep out.

City still extend their lead at the top of the table to 16 points, at least until nearest rivals Manchester United play Huddersfield later on Saturday.

Burnley have now gone nine league games without a win, but the manner of their comeback to hold the runaway leaders will give boss Sean Dyche something to smile about after a disappointing start to 2018.

 
 
Posted On Saturday, 03 February 2018 18:24 Written by

Libya scored three minutes into stoppage time to edge Rwanda 1-0 Tuesday and snatch an African Nations Championship (CHAN) quarter-finals place behind Group C winners Nigeria. 

Relentless Libyan pressure in northern Moroccan city Tangiers finally paid off when substitute Elmutasem Abushnaf swept a low cross into the roof of the net.

Nigeria topped the table with seven points, Libya had six, Rwanda four and Equatorial Guinea finished pointless.

While the “Mediterranean Knights” danced and sang when the final whistle blew, many Rwandan “Wasps” cried after coming so close to finishing runners-up.

A draw would have taken Rwanda through at the expense of Libya and having survived so many goalmouth scares, it looked like the central Africans were going to make it.

But justice was done when dominant Libya scored and they will travel south to Agadir and prepare for a last-eight showdown Sunday against the Group D winners, currently Congo Brazzaville.

Nigeria got a fright before beating Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in Atlantic city Agadir with 37-year-old Rabiu Ali wrapping up the victory by converting an 83rd-minute penalty.

Equatorial Guinea took a shock lead on 40 minutes through Secundino Eyama Nsi and stayed ahead until just before the hour when Anthony Okpotu equalised through a header.

Ekundayo Ojo put the Nigerians ahead on 69 minutes with a candidate for the best goal of the tournament as his thunderbolt shot from outside the box flew into the net.

As Equatorial Guinea faded, Nigeria stretched the lead when Ali — the second oldest player at the tournament after 38-year-old Congo goalkeeper Barel Mouko — netted.

Nigeria return to Tangiers for a quarter-final against the Group D runners-up, a position Angola occupy ahead of a Wednesday clash with Congo.

Although the biennial Nations Championship is restricted to home-based footballers, matches carry full international status and count toward the monthly FIFA rankings.

Posted On Tuesday, 23 January 2018 23:24 Written by

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick as Manchester City restored their 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win at home to Newcastle United on Saturday.

City’s 30-match unbeaten run in the league came to a dramatic end with a 4-3 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield last week and their advantage at the top of the table was cut to single figures, for a few hours at least, when second-placed Manchester United beat Burnley 1-0 earlier on Saturday.

But normal service for Pep Guardiola’s men resumed in Saturday’s late kick-off, with Aguero glancing in Kevin De Bruyne’s cross in the 34th minute to open the scoring at the Etihad.

The Argentina striker then converted a 63rd-minute penalty awarded after Raheem Sterling tumbled in the box following a tug by Javier Manquillo.

But struggling Newcastle scored against the run of play four minutes later when a mistake by Oleksandr Zinchenko allowed Jacob Murphy to sprint through and finish in composed fashion.

Aguero, however, put the result beyond doubt when City’s all-time leading goalscorer completed his 11th hat-trick for the club seven minutes from time following a superb run and pass from Leroy Sane.

Meanwhile Arsenal showed there was plenty of life after Alexis Sanchez as they beat Crystal Palace 4-1 without the United-bound Chilean forward.

With Sanchez moving slowly but surely towards a £35 million (39.6 million euros, $48.5 million) transfer to United rather than City, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger left him out of his matchday squad.

Any fears Arsenal might falter up front without him proved groundless as they surged into a 4-0 lead inside 22 minutes at the Emirates Stadium thanks to goals from Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette before Luka Milivojevic pulled one back for Palace 12 minutes from time.

Arsenal remain outside the top four but heartened manager Wenger said: “We played our real game in the first half, real pace and real combination.”

– United ‘so close’ to Sanchez –

At Turf Moor, it took until the 54th minute for United striker Anthony Martial to break the deadlock with his third league goal in as many matches.

Jose Mourinho left midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the proposed makeweight in the Sanchez deal, out of his matchday squad and afterwards the United manager indicated the transfer saga was nearing an end.

“Expect soon or never,” said Mourinho regarding his prospects of signing Sanchez. “So close, so close, so close…I know my people are doing absolutely everything they can.”

But Wenger warned: “Sanchez will only happen if Mkhitaryan comes here, that will be decided in the next 48 hours.”

Chelsea won 4-0 away to Brighton as the reigning English champions leapfrogged Liverpool into third place, 48 hours before the Reds play Swansea City.

The Blues’ first win of 2018 saw Eden Hazard score twice, his opener and a goal from Willian making it 2-0 inside six minutes before Hazard and Victor Moses sealed victory after the break.

On a day when all Premier League fixtures were preceded by a minute’s applause in memory of the former West Bromwich Albion and England forward Cyrille Regis, a trailblazer for black players who died aged 59 last week, the Baggies drew 1-1 with Everton.

Jay Rodriguez gave West Brom an early lead before Theo Walcott, on his Everton debut following a midweek move from Arsenal, laid on an equaliser for Oumar Niasse in the 70th minute.

But the sight of Toffees midfielder James McCarthy going off with a broken leg after blocking a Salomon Rondon shot cast a shadow over Everton boss Sam Allardyce’s 1,000th game as a manager.

New Stoke City manager Paul Lambert won his first game in charge of the Potters as they beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 with second-half goals from Joe Allen and Mame Biram Diouf to climb out of the relegation zone.

Leicester City beat Watford 2-0 while West Ham and Bournemouth shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.Tottenham Hotspur continue their quest for a Champions League place on Sunday when manager Mauricio Pochettino returns to former club Southampton.

 
Posted On Saturday, 20 January 2018 22:53 Written by

Robin van Persie will officially sign for Feyenoord on Monday after agreeing to rejoin his boyhood club.

The former Arsenal striker has sealed a move back to where his senior career began after Turkish side Fenerbache allowed him to terminate his contract, which was set to expire in June 2019.

Feyenoord announced the Van Persie deal in style, by posting a video on their Twitter page of the striker’s best moments for the club

Van Persie joined Eredivisie outfit Feyenoord back in 1999 when he was just 16, going on to make 78 appearances for the first team before signing for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in 2004.

The Dutch striker has enjoyed a fine career since leaving Feyenoord, netting 132 goals in 278 appearances for the Gunners before making the unfamiliar move to rivals Manchester United, where he won the Premier League in his first season.

However, since leaving the English top flight to join Fenerbahce, Van Persie’s career has failed to reach the same heights.

The 34-year-old failed to win any silverware in Turkey and has fallen down the pecking order at Fenerbahce.

But now, the former Premier League man has been given another chance to showcase his abilities once again with Feyenoord.

The reigning Eredivisie champions will be hoping that the return of Van Persie, Holland’s all-time top goalscorer, can revitalise their season after a disappointing campaign to date.

Posted On Saturday, 20 January 2018 22:19 Written by

Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele has been ruled out for “three to four weeks” in a new blow for the French forward, his club announced on Monday.

Dembele hurt himself after coming off the bench in the second half of Sunday’s 4-2 win away to Real Sociedad in La Liga.

The injury is different to the hamstring tear that ruled him out for three and half months.

“After the game against Real Sociedad, Dembele had a problem with his left thigh and tests have confirmed that the player has suffered a hamstring injury of the semitendinosus muscle that does not affect the area operated on earlier in the season,” Barcelona said in a statement published on their website.

“The injury will mean he will be out for a period of around three to four weeks.”

He now faces a race against time to be ready for the first leg of Barca’s Champions League tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on February 20.

Dembele only returned at the start of this month after tearing his hamstring in September.

The fitness problems have blighted the start of his career at Barcelona following his 105-million-euro ($124 million) move from Borussia Dortmund in August that could rise to as much as 145 million euros.

Barcelona also said that Andres Iniesta “has a problem in his right calf and his recovery will determine his return to action for the coming matches.”

Iniesta was an unused substitute in Sunday’s game as Barcelona came from two goals down to win 4-2 at Anoeta.

Ernesto Valverde’s side are already unable to call on new record signing Philippe Coutinho until the end of the month after he arrived with a thigh injury following his Spanish record 160 million-euro transfer from Liverpool.

Posted On Tuesday, 16 January 2018 02:33 Written by

Egypt star Mohamed Salah led an African goal charge in the English Premier League with his 21st of the season for Liverpool in a 3-3 thriller at Arsenal.

Another seven Africans were on target in the Premier League, including the Ayew brothers from Ghana, Andre of West Ham and Jordan of Swansea.

All the Newcastle goals in a shock 3-2 win at West Ham were scored by Africans — Senegalese Henri Saivet and Mohamed Diame and Ghanaian Christian Atsu.

 

ENGLAND

MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)
The winger maintained his blistering form with a goal and an assist in the 3-3 draw at Arsenal. The 25-year-old teed up Philippe Coutinho’s first-half opener and then scored himself with a clinical finish for his seventh goal in his last eight appearances.

MOHAMED DIAME (Newcastle)
The midfielder bagged his first goal of the season in Newcastle’s 3-2 win at West Ham. Diame put Rafael Benitez’s side 2-1 up with a powerful strike into the top corner from the edge of the area in the 53rd minute. It was the 30-year-old’s first goal since February and helped Newcastle end a nine-game winless run as they climbed out of the relegation zone.

ANDRE AYEW (West Ham) and JORDAN AYEW (Swansea)
The siblings both scored in their respective matches, but neither ended with three points. Andre netted for West Ham in the 69th minute against Newcastle, but his side were trailing 3-1 at the time after he had earlier missed a penalty, and his sixth goal of the season wasn’t enough to spark a revival in their 3-2 defeat. Jordan’s fourth goal this season — a 77th-minute equaliser against Crystal Palace — was more valuable as it earned the league’s bottom club a valuable 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium.

DANIEL AMARTEY (Leicester)
The Ghana midfielder was sent off in his side’s 2-2 draw against Manchester United. Amartey came off the bench as a 57th-minute replacement for Danny Simpson, but the 23-year-old lasted only 16 minutes before being dismissed. Already booked, Amartey needlessly barged into United forward Marcus Rashford to earn a second yellow card.

SPAIN

ZOUHAIR FEDDAL (Real Betis)
The Moroccan defender deflected a cross into his net to seal a 2-0 home defeat by Athletic Bilbao. Betis had dominated the second half with 10 men and were chasing an equaliser when misfortune struck.

AMATH NDIAYE DIEDHIOU (Getafe)
The Senegalese scored the second goal as a whirlwind start set up a 2-0 home victory over Las Palmas. Getafe were ahead within six minutes and Ndiaye Diedhiou added the second on 15 minutes.

ITALY

MEDHI BENATIA (Juventus)
Moroccan Benatia scored the only goal against his former club Roma at the third attempt after a save from Giorgio Chiellini and a ricochet off the bar after 18 minutes in Turin as champions Juventus remained one point behind leaders Napoli.

KHOUMA BABACAR (Fiorentina)
Senegalese striker Babacar came on as a late substitute to score as Fiorentina moved closer to European action with a 1-0 win at Cagliari. The Tuscany side had been frustrated in Sardinia before Babacar picked up a Federico Chiesa cross with eight minutes to go.

FRANCK KESSIE (AC Milan)
Ivorian midfielder Kessie had a mediocre outing as AC Milan suffered a second consecutive defeat, losing 2-0 to his former club Atalanta to plunge into the bottom half of the Italian league table.

 
Posted On Monday, 25 December 2017 14:14 Written by

Football legend, Henry Thiery, who is popularly referred to as ‘Igwe’ by Arsenal fans, was on Sunday crowned ‘Igwe of football.’

The Arsenal legend was unveiled as the ambassador for Guinness ‘Made of Black’ campaign held at the Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Posted On Tuesday, 19 December 2017 03:08 Written by

Chelsea substitute Willian scored a late goal to earn the Blues a draw with Liverpool at Anfield.

The forward, who scored twice in a 4-0 win at Qarabag in the Champions League in midweek, struck in the 85th minute as what appeared to be a cross looped over Simon Mignolet and into the far corner.

It denied Mohamed Salah a dream outcome against his former club after the Liverpool winger had opened the scoring just after the hour with a close-range finish.

That was Salah's 10th goal in just 13 Premier League games this season in what has been a superb start to the Egyptian's Liverpool career.

Salah could even have won it for Liverpool in final minute but his powerful drive was saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea are unbeaten in their past seven visits to Anfield, a run stretching back to 2013.

Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah has now scored 15 goals in all competitions this season

Salah, understandably, was the centre of attention in the build up to the match as he faced his former side for the first time since leaving Chelsea for Roma in the summer of 2016.

The 25-year-old made just 17 appearances and six league starts during his two-year spell at Stamford Bridge but has returned to England a much improved player.

Already the Premier League's top scorer, Salah has been at his most effective when alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in attack but against Chelsea he had Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for company in Liverpool's front three.

The triumvirate may have been different but Salah still showed his class. He was Liverpool's most dangerous player in a first half light on chances, flashing an effort over the bar early on while a promising run along the edge of the box deserved more but there was no team-mate waiting in the box to meet his cut-back.

It felt, though, that Salah's name was destined to be written into the story of the game and so it proved. He showed great instinct to anticipate Oxlade-Chamberlain's poked pass and when presented with a clear sight of goal there was little doubt over the outcome.

Salah did not celebrate the strike, which saw him become Liverpool's highest scorer in a single season since Luis Suarez hit 31 goals in the 2013-14 campaign.

Chelsea had won two and drawn four in their past six Anfield visits, but despite that record Antonio Conte's team selection suggested this was a must-not-lose game rather than a must-win.

The Blues lined up with eight defensive-minded players - five defenders along with three holding midfielders as Tiemoue Bakayoko started alongside former Leicester duo Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante in the middle.

That meant Eden Hazard carried all the creative responsibility, a task he grasped fully whenever the visitors had the chance to get forward. His darting runs and sudden changes of direction had the home side's defence on almost constant edge. It was from his through-ball that Mignolet had to race off his line to deny Drinkwater and it was from his pass that Davide Zappacosta forced the Liverpool keeper to tip over the bar.

However, he visibility tired in the second half, weakening Chelsea's attack, and when Salah scored it seemed a Liverpool win was inevitable.

Willian was unlucky not to have started after scoring twice and providing two assists in Chelsea's midweek win in Azerbaijan and it took just 144 seconds for him to make a telling impact in this game.

His three goals in two games is as many as in his previous 25 combined. The Brazilian has been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge but his impressive recent form suggests he could still play a part for the Blues this season.

Man of the match - Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah
Once again Liverpool's best player. With his 10th league goal for Liverpool in his 13th game, no player has scored more in their first 13 Premier League appearances for the Reds (level with Daniel Sturridge).LIV
Posted On Saturday, 25 November 2017 20:46 Written by
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