FIRST 11: Serena Williams’ Chelsea Ownership Push+Top Sports Stories This Week

 

With the sanctions on Russian businesses biting harder, the quest for a new Chelsea owner has been ramped up. This time, tennis icon Serena Williams and F1 great Lewis Hamilton, are the ones pushing to own a stake in the Premier League club.  

The Super Eagles also knew their opponents for the 2023 AFCON qualifiers just as the team’s former coach Gernot Rohr awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack.  These and more are some of the top sports stories covered in First 11 this week.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Bidders Set To Discover Their Fate

Condolences Pour As Ronaldo Loses Baby

We kick off from England where torrents of condolence messages have been poured in for Cristiano Ronaldo following his son’s death. The former Real Madrid star and wife confirmed their baby boy’s demise in a social media post.

Manchester United, his former clubs, players, and fans thronged social media to comfort the multiple Champions League winner over the sad incident.

The Portuguese star was excused from United’s tie with Liverpool earlier in the week. He, however, was available for selection as the Red Devils lost to Arsenal on Saturday.

Maguire Gets Bomb Threat

Still in Manchester United. Team captain Harry Maguire received a bomb threat but it was unknown who was behind it.

Cheshire Constabulary swept the 29-year-old’s home to ensure his safety. Maguire was up for selection against the Gunners.

The English defender, who stays with his fiancee and two kids, is having a turbulent campaign and has been the subject of stinging criticism from pundits and jeers from fans.

Man United Name Coach

Meanwhile, Manchester United has appointed Erik ten Hag as their manager next season.

The 52-year-old, who has signed a three-year contract, faces a huge task to revive the Red Devils’ fortunes after a fifth consecutive trophyless season. The Dutchman becomes the fifth permanent manager at Old Trafford since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 sent the 20-time English champions into decline.

Drogba, Others Inducted Into EPL Hall of Fame

Equally, Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes was in the news this week. The Englishman joined Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero as the latest inductee into the EPL Hall of Fame.

Vincent Kompany, Ian Wright, and Peter Schmeichel alongside Wayne Rooney and Patrick Vieira are also in the “Class of 2022” inductees.

Serena, Hamilton Join Chelsea Bid

For Man United’s rivals, Chelsea, the sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich over Russia’s war with Ukraine are set to cause major changes in the team. The club has been up for sale and tennis icon Serena Williams as well as Formula 1 legend Lewis Hamilton have expressed interest in having a stake in the London side.

They will be investing about £20m into a consortium to buy Chelsea and both are part of a group of investors backing the European champions’ takeover offer spearheaded by Sir Martin Broughton.

Serena and Hamilton have each pledged £10m to the bid. Lord Coe is believed to be part of the British-led consortium.

Russia, Belarussian Players Banned From Wimbledon

Aside from football, the Russian-Ukraine war is creating ripples in other sports. Earlier in the week, Russian players were barred from Wimbledon. Belarussian players were also affected, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) said.

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, and women’s four Victoria Azarenka are some of the top players affected. The move drew wide criticism from players, fans, and others stakeholders in the tennis world.

But Russian officials have rejected the ban, describing it as “unacceptable”.

Nigeria Paired For AFCON Qualifiers

In Nigeria, the Super Eagles were paired with Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and either Sao Tome or Mauritius in the qualifiers for next year’s AFCON. The draws were held in Jo’burg, South Africa, and qualifications for the tournament will start in May.

The Super Eagles, who failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will also be aiming to make amends for their early exit at the last AFCON. The Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 editions and won bronze in Egypt in 2019.

Rohr Awaits FIFA Verdict

The development came as a former coach of the team, Gernot Rohr, awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack. Rohr had reported the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to the football body for breaching contractual terms.

Reports suggest that FIFA had concluded their investigations and are set to deliver judgment on the $1m claims being made by former Niger Republic gaffer. The Franco-German had met all conditions in his contract but was sacked with one year left in the deal. While the NFF said it would pay Rohr his salary until the end of his contract, the ex-Niger boss took the NFF to FIFA. He is seeking compensation for his ‘unfair’ dismissal.

Kano Pillars Sanctioned, Banished

On the local scene, Kano Pillars were sanctioned for fans’ hooliganism. The former Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions were fined N9m and banished to Abuja for the rest of the season following the incident which took place last weekend. The club’s fans have, however, condemned the attack which led to the destruction of the visiting team’s bus.

Pele Hospitalised Again

Away from Nigeria, football great Pele was hospitalized in Sao Paulo as part of his treatment for colon cancer.

But the clinical condition of Edson Arantes do Nascimento is “good and stable, and he should be discharged from hospital in the next few days,” the Albert Einstein Hospital said on Tuesday.

Before his diagnosis of colon cancer, which led to Pele being hospitalized for a month last year, the former star of Santos and the Brazilian team was hospitalized in Paris in 2019 and transferred to Sao Paulo to have a kidney stone removed.

Five years before then, he was in intensive care due to a urinary tract infection that forced him to undergo dialysis on his left kidney. The right one was removed in the 1970s due to an injury when he was still a player.

Maradona Shirt Auction Opens

The auction for the jersey worn by Pele’s late friend, Diego Maradona, when he scored twice against England in the 1986 World Cup, including the infamous “hand of God” goal, kicked off with a bid of over $5 million.

Sotheby’s is selling the blue number 10 Argentina shirt in an online sale that runs until May 4. Hours after bidding opened, the site showed that the first offer of £4 million ($5.2 million) — matching the low end of the auction house’s pre-sale estimate — had been registered. That would set a new record price for a football jersey at auction.

The record for a game-worn shirt from any sport is $5.6 million, set in 2019 for a jersey Babe Ruth wore while on the New York Yankees.

African Players In Europe: In-Form Salah Equals Drogba Record

File Photo of Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah. (Photo by Peter Byrne / POOL / AFP)

 

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah equalled the Premier League goals record for an African when he scored in a 5-0 rout of Watford at the weekend.

The Egypt forward has netted 104 times in the world’s most watched domestic league, matching the total of former Ivory Coast attacker Didier Drogba during two spells with Chelsea.

Salah showed why he is one of the most in-form players in the world with a stunning solo effort as he danced between four defenders to score for the eighth consecutive game.

Here, AFP Sport highlights Africans who starred in the major European leagues.

ENGLAND

SADIO MANE, MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)

Mane became just the third African player to score 100 Premier League goals after Drogba and Salah as Liverpool overwhelmed Watford. Salah was the provider for Mane’s landmark effort with a brilliant pass for the Senegal attacker to slot home his sixth goal of the season.

PATSON DAKA (Leicester)

Zambia forward Daka grabbed his first Leicester goal as the Foxes inflicted more misery on Manchester United with a 4-2 win. Daka has played just 39 minutes of Premier League football since his mid-year move from Salzburg, but made his mark off the bench with the final goal of the game in stoppage time as he tapped home at the back post from a free-kick.

EDOUARD MENDY (Chelsea)

The Senegal goalkeeper repelled a late Brentford barrage to secure a 1-0 win. The European champions needed Mendy to make three stunning saves to hold out for a victory to take them back to the top of the table. “He’s a world-class goalkeeper and is the one we’ve got to thank,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel.

ITALY

VICTOR OSIMHEN (Napoli)

The Nigeria forward scored his fifth Serie A goal of the season as Napoli defeated Torino 1-0 to maintain their perfect start to the season. Osimhen headed in after 81 minutes, making the most of an attempted clearance that ricocheted off team-mate Eljif Elmas. “It was the most important goal of my career,” said Osimhen. “The atmosphere at the stadium was incredible. The fans pushed us forward and we managed to get the three points.”

GERMANY

TAIWO AWONIYI (Union Berlin)

Fresh from his international debut, the Nigeria forward bagged his fourth goal in three games to hand Union a surprise 2-0 win over Wolfsburg. The home crowd sang Awoniyi’s name after he put Union ahead just after half-time by scoring his sixth league goal this season. “He is our life insurance”, said goalkeeper Andreas Luthe.

IHLAS BEBOU (Hoffenheim)

Togo striker Bebou opened his Bundesliga account for the season with two goals in Hoffenheim’s 5-0 thrashing of Cologne. Bebou scored in the first half and doubled the lead after the break with a neat backheel to send Hoffenheim on the way to their second-highest Bundesliga victory.

ODILON KOSSOUNOU (Bayer Leverkusen)

Ivory Coast defender endured a torrid afternoon at the back as a young Leverkusen side were put to the sword by league leaders and reigning champions Bayern Munich. Kossounou and his teammates were powerless to stop Bayern’s marauding front line in the first half, as Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller and Serge Gnabry smashed in four goals in seven minutes. The 5-1 win sent Bayern back to the top of the table.

FRANCE

KAMALDEEN SULEMANA (Rennes)

The Ghanaian teenager scored a magnificent solo goal to take his haul for the season to four in a 3-0 victory at Metz. Sulemana, who started both World Cup qualifying wins over Zimbabwe, poked the ball through the legs of a defender before smashing in via the crossbar as Rennes put the game out of reach by half-time.

VITAL N’SIMBA (Clermont)

The Angola-born Democratic Republic of Congo defender bagged his first Ligue 1 goal to give promoted Clermont a memorable 1-0 win over reigning champions Lille. N’Simba crashed home a powerful low drive from 20 metres to end a run of seven games without a victory for his side.

African Players In Europe: Salah Set To Break Drogba’s Goal Record


Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah runs for the ball during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield in Liverpool, northwest England, on October 3, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Mohamed Salah netted a brilliant solo goal for Liverpool in a 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the weekend, and moved closer to overtaking Didier Drogba as the leading African scorer in the English Premier League.

Retired Ivory Coast great Drogba bagged 104 goals in two spells with Chelsea while Salah lifted his total to 103 with a wonderful goal against City at Anfield.

While scoring is second nature to the Egyptian, Ghanaian Iddrisu Baba claimed his first for Real Mallorca in his 102nd appearance for the La Liga outfit.

Here, AFP Sport highlights Africans who starred in the five major European leagues.

ENGLAND – MOHAMED SALAH/SADIO MANE (Liverpool)

Salah and Mane dazzled with two goals and an assist between them in a thrilling draw against Manchester City. Mane put the Reds ahead by scoring his 99th Premier League goal with a powerful finish across Ederson in the 59th minute after being released by Salah. The Egyptian gave the Reds the lead again in the 76th minute, bamboozling City’s defence with his dribbling and finding the far corner from a tight angle to score for the seventh consecutive game.

JEFFREY SCHLUPP (Crystal Palace)

Schlupp scored Palace’s equaliser 48 seconds after entering the fray as a substitute to haunt former club Leicester in a 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park. The Ghana international — part of Leicester’s title-winning 2015/16 squad — headed past Kasper Schmeichel with his first touch in the 72nd minute.

KELECHI IHEANACHO (Leicester)

Iheanacho celebrated his 25th birthday by opening the scoring for Leicester on his first Premier League start of the season. The Nigerian dispossessed Joachim Andersen and raced clear to score his third goal of the campaign.

SPAIN – IDDRISU BABA (Mallorca)

It has taken 102 matches but, finally, Ghanaian midfielder Baba made it on to the score sheet for Mallorca, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Levante. Baba, who joined Mallorca’s youth setup in January 2014, rose above the defence at the back post to head home Pablo Maffeo’s cross four minutes before halftime.

ITALY – MUSA BARROW (Bologna)

Gambian international forward Barrow set Bologna on their way to a surprising 3-0 win over Lazio with a superb strike. The 22-year-old unleashed a curling shot which whipped around Pepe Reina and gave the hosts a 14th-minute lead, which they then used to end a mini-crisis early in the season.

GERMANY – TAIWO AWONIYI (Union Berlin)

The Nigerian striker scored Union Berlin’s 100th Bundesliga goal as he led his side’s superb second-half comeback in a 2-1 win at Mainz. Having missed several chances earlier in the game, Awoniyi struck twice in the space of four minutes against his former club as Union recorded their first away victory of the season.

ELLYES SKHIRI (Cologne)

The Tunisian midfielder also scored twice to keep Cologne’s excellent start to the season going with a 3-1 home win over Greuther Fuerth. Skhiri put Cologne ahead early in the second half before scoring again in stoppage time.

OMAR MARMOUSH (Stuttgart)

Egyptian Marmoush picked up his first Bundesliga assist as his side beat local rivals Hoffenheim 3-1. Marmoush, on loan from Wolfsburg, set up Stuttgart’s opening goal, picking out Marc-Oliver Kempf with a corner.

FRANCE – STEPHANE BAHOKEN (Angers)

The Cameroon forward struck the winning goal in stoppage time as Angers twice came from behind to beat Metz 3-2. Bahoken turned in from close range after coming on as a late substitute to net his second goal of the season and send Angers back into the top four.

KAMALDEEN SULEMANA (Rennes)

The Ghanaian teenager played a leading role as Rennes upstaged a Paris Saint-Germain side featuring Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar by inflicting a 2-0 defeat at Roazhon Park, putting an end to their 100-percent record in Ligue 1. Sulemana delivered the cross for Gaetan Laborde to volley in the opener and twice went close to scoring himself.

AFP

Drogba Resigns As Vice-President Of Côte d’Ivoire Players’ Association

In this handout file photo taken on October 01, 2020 and released by UEFA, Ivorian international Didier Drogba receives the UEFA president’s award during the UEFA Champions League group stage draw at the RTS studios in Geneva.  Harold Cunningham / AFP / UEFA

 

Former Ivory Coast star striker Didier Drogba on Tuesday said he was stepping down as vice-president of his country’s Footballers Association (AFI) accusing it of “inaction” on defending player interests.

“I hereby announce I have decided to resign from my post as vice-president of the AFI and from its executive committee,” the former Chelsea attacker said in an open letter to the media.

Instead of defending players’ rights and interests he said the AFI “does not respond to their needs and expectations”.

Former national skipper Drogba had been widely expected to head the West African country’s football association FIF but last year saw his candidacy snubbed as the AFI alleged he has not been sufficiently involved with the players’ representative organisation.

He still hopes nonetheless to win a November election to that post.

READ ALSO: Brazil Beat Spain To Retain Olympic Football Crown

In this file photo taken on August 01, 2020 Former Ivorian forward Didier Drogba (R) wearing a mask, listens to Ivorian Football Federation’s secretary Jean-Baptiste Sam Etiasse (L) speaking upon the submission of his application as president of the FIF at the federation headquarters in Treicheville district of Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP

 

FIFA placed the FIF under its own remit last December saying the organisation was suffering from inherent internal problems and structural weaknesses and was not fully complying with statutory and regulatory requirements which all FIFA member associations must follow.

The normalisation committee now overseeing the Ivory Coast game must choose a FIF president.

FIFA in January chose senator Mariam Dao Gabala, a newcomer to the football world, to oversee the normalisation committee which comprises four members.

AFP

COVID-19: Ex-Chelsea Star Drogba Offers Hospital In Virus Fight

drogba-hospital
(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 16, 2016 shows the first hospital of the Dider Drogba foundation in Attecoube, a district of Abidjan. Former Chelsea forward Didier Drogba has offered his hospital in his native Ivory Coast to the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP

 

Former Chelsea forward Didier Drogba has offered his hospital in his native Ivory Coast to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, a local politician said.

Drogba, who scored 65 goals in 105 appearances for his country and won the Champions League with the English club during his playing career, has proposed the use of the Laurent Pokou hospital in Abidjan.

“We thank Drogba for this gift considered as an act of patriotism,” the head of the city’s regional council Vincent Toh Bi said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: ‘I Miss Fighting’, Says Wrestling Champion Adekuoroye

The centre located in the Attecoube district is not yet in a working state but can be used in a period of crisis.

“It’s up to the state to validate it and make it functional,” the director of Drogba’ foundation, who run the unit, Mariam Breka said.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak four people have died and 533 cases have been registered in Ivory Coast.

AFP

Full List Of 2019 Ballon D’Or Winners

Former Ivorian forward Didier Drogba (L) and French English tv host Sandy Heribert host the Ballon d’Or France Football 2019 ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on December 2, 2019.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The winners and other top finishers in the four trophies awarded at the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony on Monday in Paris:

Men’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona)
  2. Virgil van Dijk (NED/Liverpool)
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Juventus)
  4. Sadio Mane (SEN/Liverpool)
  5. Mohamed Salah (EGY/Liverpool)
  6. Kylian Mbappe (FRA/PSG)
  7. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  8. Robert Lewandowski (POL/Bayern Munich)
  9. Bernardo Silva (POR/Manchester City)
  10. Riyad Mahrez (ALG/Manchester City)

Women’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Megan Rapinoe (USA/Reign FC)
  2. Lucy Bronze (ENG/Lyon)
  3. Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride)
  4. Ada Hegerberg (NOR/Lyon)
  5. Viviane Miedema (NED/Arsenal)
  6. Wendie Renard (FRA/Lyon)
  7. Sam Kerr (AUS/Chicago Red Stars)
  8. Rose Lavelle (USA/Washington Spirit)
  9. Ellen White (ENG/Manchester City)
  10. Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER/Lyon)

READ ALSO: De Ligt Wins Young Player Gong At Ballon D’or Awards

Kopa Trophy

(Best player under 21 on December 31)

  1. Matthijs de Ligt (NED/Ajax Amsterdam then Juventus)
  2. Jadon Sancho (ENG/Borussia Dortmund)
  3. Joao Felix (POR/Benfica then Atletico Madrid)

Yashin Trophy

(Best goalkeeper, presented for the first time)

  1. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  2. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GER/FC Barcelona)
  3. Ederson (BRA/Manchester City)

AFP

George Weah, Drogba, Others To Attend Ambode’s Testimonial Match

George Weah,                                                                 Akinwunmi Ambode

 

 

African football legends such as Liberian President, George Weah, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure will on Saturday, May 18, 2019, be in Lagos State to attend a testimonial match in honour of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

In a statement on Thursday, the Chairman of the State Sports Commission, Kweku Tandoh, said that the event tagged ‘Match for Ambode’, is being organised to honour the outgoing governor for his laudable contribution to sports development since he assumed office in 2015.

He said the organisers, a group of ex-internationals led by Waidi Akanni have promised to put up a memorable event to ensure that the guests have a taste of good hospitality of the government and people of the state.

Tandoh added that the testimonial match would be spiced up with music from A-list artistes including Wizkid, Small Doctor amongst many others.

READ ALSO: Christian Chukwu Arrives In UK For Treatment

He also assured that adequate security before, during and after the event which starts by 10 am on Saturday have been firmed up.

Among the stars that have confirmed their participation for the one day event include The President of Liberian and former World Footballer award winner, George Weah, Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o, Ivorian Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure also from Cote d’Ivoire, Diomansy Kamara, Peterside Idah, Geremi Njitap, Michael Essien, Lomana Lua-Lua, Samuel Eto, Didier Zokora, Kader Keita, Richard Kingston, Christian Karembu, El- Hadji Diouf.

Others include Peter Rufai, Finidi George, Mutiu Adepoju, Samson Siasia, Augustine Eguavoen, Joseph Yobo, Ike Shorunmu, Kanu Nwankwo, Austin Jay- Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi, Emmanuel Amunike, Phillip Shuaibu (Deputy Governor, Edo State), Taribo West, Victor Ezeji, Tijani Babangida, Emma Okocha, Ifeanyi Udeze, Uche Okechukwu and Garba Lawal.

The event is slated to hold on Saturday, May 18, at the Agege Stadium.

Salah Scores To Equal Drogba Premier League Record

 Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park in south London. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah equalled the record for goals by an African in an English Premier League season when he scored his 29th in a weekend win at Crystal Palace.

The prolific 25-year-old Egyptian attacker matched the mark set by Ivorian Didier Drogba during the 2009-2010 season as he helped Chelsea win the title.

Salah is five goals ahead of Tottenham Hotspur sharpshooter Harry Kane as he seeks to emulate Drogba and finish as the Premier League leading scorer.

ENGLAND

MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)

Salah may not have had one of his more eye-catching performances against struggling Crystal Palace but he was on hand to score the winner, producing a delightful first touch to bemuse Mamadou Sakho and fire home his 29th Premier League goal of the campaign, equalling the league record of scoring in 21 matches of a 38-game season.

WILFRED NDIDI (Leicester)

He could have cost his side dearly when, with the Foxes holding a 1-0 lead at struggling Brighton, he received his marching orders for a second bookable offence with three minutes remaining. The 21-year-old Nigeria midfielder had conceded a penalty for his first yellow card but Glenn Murray’s spot-kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel and was sent off for fouling Shane Duffy. Leicester scored the second goal with 10 men to win 2-0.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)

The Gabon striker bagged a brace as Arsenal warmed up for a crucial Europa League clash with a 3-0 home victory over Stoke. Arsene Wenger’s side must win the UEFA second-tier competition to qualify for next season’s Champions League, so playing Stoke was all about boosting morale ahead of a visit from CSKA Moscow for a quarter-final first leg this Thursday. Aubameyang, who isn’t eligible to play in Europe for the Gunners, ensured they go into the Moscow tie in good spirits, opening the scoring with a 75th-minute penalty and adding his second with a cool finish in the 86th minute. He now has five goals for Arsenal since his January move from Borussia Dortmund.

ITALY

JOEL OBI (Torino)

Nigerian international Obi came off the bench to score the final goal in a 4-0 win by Torino at Cagliari. The 26-year-old midfielder came on in the 77th minute and scored 10 minutes later off an Andrea Belotti cross as mid-table Torino claimed their ninth win of the season. Obi is targeting a call-up by Nigeria for the World Cup in Russia after being recalled by the ‘Super Eagles’ this month following an almost four-year absence.

GERMANY

SALIF SANE (Hanover)

The Senegalese defender scored his second goal in three games but was unable to help Hanover avoid a dramatic 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig. With his side 2-0 down, Sane’s header went in off the post to pull them back into the game and kickstart what might have been a brilliant comeback. Hanover were ultimately heartbroken, however, when a late equaliser was ruled offside.

NABY KEITA (RB Leipzig)

The 23-year-old Guinean picked up his fifth assist of the season as his side survived a late scare to beat Hanover 3-2. Early in the second half, Keita’s floating cross found Willi Orban, who put Leipzig 2-0 ahead with a powerful header. Though Hanover twice fought back from a two-goal deficit, Keita and Leipzig held on to secure three points and bounce back into the Bundesliga top four.

KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG (Eintracht Frankfurt)

The former Ghana international provided a stylish assist in Eintracht Frankfurt’s 2-1 defeat to Werder Bremen. With Frankfurt 1-0 down in the second half, Boateng’s backheeled cross picked out Lukas Jovic, who equalised. It wasn’t enough for Frankfurt, who missed a chance to go fourth after a mistake gave Bremen a late victory.

FRANCE

GIOVANNI SIO (Montpellier)

The 29-year-old Ivory Coast striker grabbed two goals as fifth-place Montpellier defeated Caen 3-1 to keep up his club’s push for a Europa League spot next season. Sio now has 10 Ligue 1 goals this season with his team having lost just once in their last 13 league matches.

AFP

Drogba Likely To Miss Impact’s Clash With D.C. United

drogbaSuperstar forward Didier Drogba’s absence from the Montreal Impact roster is unlikely to end in Thursday’s Eastern Conference knockout-round playoff match against hosts D.C. United.

Despite scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances, Drogba has not played since the end of September – partly due to a feud over playing time with manager Mauro Biello and more recently because of a back ailment.

The 38-year-old Ivory Coast international and former Chelsea striker sat out most of training again on Tuesday. Multiple media outlets on Wednesday reported that he did not make the trip to Washington.

“I don’t think those chances will be good,” Biello said on Tuesday, according to MLSSoccer.com. “He hasn’t trained, he still feels a discomfort, so the chances are very minimal.”

Drogba is out of contract at the end of the season, and fifth-seeded Montreal are 6-3-3 this season when he does not play.

In the latter third of the campaign, Biello appeared to be more comfortable starting mid-season loan signing Matteo Mancosu at forward and bringing Drogba off the bench. The 31-year-old Italian has three goals and four assists in 15 appearances (seven starts).

“(Drogba’s) a different player than Mancosu, but I don’t think much is going to change if they swap one for the other,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said, according to MLSSoccer.com. “So the way we go about the game isn’t going to change.”

By contrast, fourth-seeded D.C. United have very few questions surrounding their personnel for a group that had won four straight before sitting most of their regulars in a 4-2 loss at Orlando City SC on Sunday.

Midfielder Marcelo Sarvas (knee) and outside back Sean Franklin (calf) made their first appearances since September on Sunday, but seem unlikely to supplant anyone in Olsen’s starting lineup.

Mourinho Hails Chelsea Team, Singles Out Drogba

ChelseaChelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho, has hailed the bravery of his team to see-off the challenge by Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to maintain their lead atop the English Premier League.

He said that his team played a good game against a spirited Spurs side who should have gone ahead when Harry Kane’s header hit the bar. The attempt brought Chelsea into the game, subsequently taking the lead through Hazard.

The Portuguese also applauded the effort of his aging Ivorian striker, Didier Drogba (now 36) who set up Hazard for the opener and scored the second before Remy made it three.

When asked about what he felt on Drogba’s performance he said, “Yes, it is remarkable. Didier is a team player, one of these with an old school mentality. Not selfish, not vain, a humble guy who plays for the team, fights for the team. Fantastic,” Mourinho said.

“When he is on the bench and comes on for the last few minutes to help the team defend, he does that with the same enthusiasm as when he starts a game against Tottenham.

“We played against him when he was at Galatasaray last season so I could feel the kind of potential he still has and I was expecting exactly this, with not even a doubt about a player who is not playing every game. I knew he would adapt very well mentally to his role.”

However, Spurs Boss felt hard done as his side failed to convert opportunities they had in the opening stages, with the loss now stretching their poor run at the bridge to 28 games since 1990.

“We started very well and made some chances, but they scored with their first chance and the game changed. That is the difference,” Pochettino said.

“I’m very disappointed with the result because 3-0 is harsh but we can take some positives. We were very brave at the start.

“If we scored when Kane hit the bar then the game changes, but we were playing a very good team. Our history here is difficult but we came here with the idea to take three points. That was our intention in the beginning, but in football it’s hard to manage the luck.”

‘Devil Beast’, new moniker for Didier Drogba in China

The powerful Ivory Coast striker and former Chelsea striker now has a new nickname ‘Devil Beast’. This is accrued to his  success within a month of signing for his new Chinese club, Shenhua Shanghai.

He is no doubt the best thing that has happened to Shenhua, then before his arrival the club was 12th position in the 16-team Super League, proving his worth as the world’s highest paid players in the game as he scored twice on his home debut in the 5-1 thrashing of long-time rivals Hangzhou Greentown.

The fanatical home crowd, swelled from the usual 15,000 to 25,000, chanted the veteran’s name repeatedly and gave him a rousing cheer as he performed the traditional post-match bow.

“Shenhua’s nuclear bomb has arrived,” Shanghai goalkeeper Wang Dalei said of his new team-mate, who joins another former Chelsea striker, Nicolas Anelka, at the club.

The 34-year-old left European champions Chelsea for the ambitious Chinese club.

Although Chinese teams have been luring a fast-expanding group of foreign stars to play for enormous salaries, Drogba is the highest paid and has quickly become a fan favourite, eclipsing Anelka.

Drogba has had only a negligible effect on his team so far. He has not found the net since his double and Shenhua are still struggling, creeping up to 10th in the table.

Not that the fans are laying any blame on their new hero, who is on international duty for his country Ivory Coast against Russia on Wednesday in a friendly in Moscow.

 

Challenge, not money, brought me to China: Drogba

It is not money but the big challenge in an unfamiliar land that lured Didier Drogba to China, the Ivory Coast striker said on Saturday.

Zhou Jun, director of Shanghai Shenhua Football Club, and soccer player Didier Drogba hold up a Shanghai Shenhua FC jersey in Shanghai

More than 300 fans gathered at the Shanghai airport to welcome Drogba on his much-anticipated arrival to join Chinese Super League strugglers Shanghai Shenhua.

Drogba has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the big-spending club for a reported salary of $300,000 a week, ending weeks of speculation on his future after he announced his decision to leave Champions League winners Chelsea.

“I decided to come here because when the club and the president approached me, I looked at the project and it came with ambitious ideas and he wants to … help football develop in China,” Drogba told reporters after his unveiling.

“I know China is a great sports country so for me it was also a big challenge because it could have been easy for me to stay in Europe and go to another team, another big team.

“Really, I didn’t come here with the idea of making a lot of money. I come here because it is a completely different challenge from what I have seen in Europe before.

“And that’s the idea, there are many challenges but this one is a big one.”

Drogba’s arrival is the latest in a long list of high-profile names who have made the move to China in recent months.

Italian World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi is in charge of a Guangzhou Evergrande side packed full of skilful South American talent.

Drogba, who scored 157 times in 341 appearances for Chelsea making him the club’s fourth all-time leading scorer, is the biggest catch of them all.

Poor results

The 34-year old striker will join former Chelsea team mate Nicolas Anelka at the club struggling at the 13th spot in the 16-club Chinese Super League. Shanghai Shenhua is coached by former Argentina boss Sergio Batista.

“The results of my new team, they are not so good, not so great. But you know, the second part of the season just started and I think we have time to make some better results and to bring the club to a better place,” Drogba said.

“With my team mates, we are going to perform as much as we can. And I came here to win the league, I am not coming here as the beginning of the retirement or something like this.

“I want people to make sure and to understand that I am here to win. I am not here to sit and relax.”

The fans arrived in the early hours of the morning at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport, many dressed in the club’s blue jersey bearing “Drogba 11”, and their hopes were also pinned on the Drogba-Anelka strike force.

“I believe that with his arrival, our results will improve significantly, because he has a good rapport with Anelka,” 23-year-old Zhu Hongbo said.

“Also, we have brought in a midfield player in (Giovanni) Moreno. I think for the second half of the year, our results will improve and we can be in the top three.”