Havertz Seals Controversial Chelsea Win, Pickford Denies Liverpool

Chelsea's German midfielder Kai Havertz (L) celebrates after scoring his team second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge in London on September 3, 2022. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)
Chelsea’s German midfielder Kai Havertz (L) celebrates after scoring his team second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge in London on September 3, 2022. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

 

Kai Havertz scored the late winner as big-spending Chelsea fought back for a controversial 2-1 win against West Ham, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp praised Everton keeper Jordan Pickford’s “spectacular” display in Saturday’s goalless Merseyside derby.

Having embarked on a £250 million ($280 million) spending spree in the summer transfer window, Chelsea are expected to deliver on their new owners’ eye-watering investment.

The early returns had been mixed as Chelsea crashed to defeats against Leeds and Southampton.

So when Michail Antonio gave West Ham a shock 62nd minute lead with a close-range finish, the critics were sharpening their knives at Stamford Bridge.

But Ben Chilwell equalised in the 76th minute, just three minutes after the England left-back replaced Marc Cucurella.

Chilwell headed Thiago Silva’s lofted ball past his marker, spun around and poked his shot through Lukasz Fabianski’s legs from a tight angle.

Kai Havertz cleverly finished off Chilwell’s cross to complete Chelsea’s escape in the 88th minute of a thrilling finale.

There was still more drama as Maxwel Cornet appeared to equalise in stoppage-time, only for the goal to be controversially disallowed by VAR for Jarrod Bowen’s foul on Mendy.

Thomas Tuchel’s side remain unconvincing but they are up to fifth place after their third win in six games, while West Ham boss David Moyes was livid with the officials for denying his team a point.

At Goodison Park, there was more VAR intrigue as Conor Coady thought he had put Everton ahead with a close-range finish from Neal Maupay’s shot in the second half.

But Coady’s goal was correctly disallowed for offside after a VAR check.

There could easily have been goals aplenty but for a man of the match display from Pickford and some fine stops from his Liverpool counterpart Alisson Becker.

“Wow, what can you do? It was a great derby, super intense, with a lot of really spectacular saves,” Klopp said.

“We hit the post three times and Pickford made so many saves. I don’t know how many derbies I’ve been in, but it’s quite a few and they’re always difficult here.”

Everton are now without a victory in their first six games this term, while Liverpool’s momentum was checked after winning their previous two matches.

Kane reaches milestone

Unbeaten Tottenham made it four wins from six games with a 2-1 victory against Fulham in north London.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg broke the deadlock for Tottenham in the 40th minute, sweeping home from Richarlison’s pass.

Harry Kane increased Tottenham’s lead in the 74th minute from Ryan Sessegnon’s cross to become the third highest goal-scorer in the Premier League history, with 188 goals taking him past Andy Cole.

Only Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208) are now above Kane in the scoring chart.

Kane’s goal also moved him level with Thierry Henry’s tally of 43 in Premier League London derbies.

Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic curled home in the 82nd minute, but Tottenham held firm.

Managerless Bournemouth came back from two goals down to win 3-2 in a thriller at Nottingham Forest.

The Cherries, who lost 9-0 at Liverpool last weekend, looked on course for another thrashing as Forest led at the break through Cheikhou Kouyate’s header and Brennan Johnson’s penalty.

But Philip Billing’s long-range blast and Dominic Solanke’s acrobatic effort drew them level before Jaidon Anthony sealed the points in the 87th minute.

Ivan Toney scored a hat-trick as Brentford beat Leeds 5-2 at the Community Stadium.

Daniel Podence scored as Wolves beat Southampton 1-0 at Molineux for their first league victory this season.

Podence’s simple finish in first-half stoppage time lifted Bruno Lage’s side out of the relegation zone.

Newcastle striker Alexander Isak wasted the opportunity to mark his home debut with a goal as Crystal Palace drew 0-0 at St James’ Park.

The £60 million ($69 million) man, who scored in his first appearance at Liverpool in midweek, missed two good chances to leave Newcastle without a win since the opening day of the season.

AFP

Haaland’s Debut Double Gives Man City Winning Start To EPL Title Defence

Manchester City’s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the London Stadium, in London on August 7, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

Erling Haaland scored twice on his Premier League debut as Manchester City opened their defence of the title with a 2-0 win at West Ham on Sunday.

Haaland lived up to the hype since his transfer from Borussia Dortmund to give the champions a perfect start to the season in the searing heat of East London.

West Ham nearly derailed City’s title chances when they led 2-0 at half-time in the penultimate game of last season before Pep Guardiola’s men battled back for the point that ultimately edged out Liverpool at the top of the table.

But they were no match this time as Haaland immediately proved the value of City adding a proven goalscorer to their arsenal.

The Norwegian has been signed as the long-term successor to Sergio Aguero and started his City career just like the club’s all-time record goalscorer with a double on his league debut.

READ ALSO: Spineless Man United Slump To Brighton At Old Trafford

Haaland had missed chances in City’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Community Shield, but Guardiola’s warning that the goals would soon flow proved to be correct.

City’s patient possession game wore the Hammers down as temperatures in the English capital soared above 30 degrees celsius on Sunday.

Haaland took responsibility from the penalty spot to open his Premier League account after he had been brought down by Alphonse Areola.

West Ham started the second half with more attacking intent but that simply played into the hands of City’s new weapon as Kevin De Bruyne split open their defence with one pass on the counter-attack for Haaland to gallop clear on goal and slot low past Areola.

AFP

Cat Cruelty: Zouma Handed 180 Hours Of Community Service

In this file photo, West Ham United’s French defender Kurt Zouma warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium, in London on February 8, 2022. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

West Ham defender Kurt Zouma was on Wednesday ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service after he admitted kicking and slapping his pet cat.

A judge at Thames Magistrates Court in east London also banned the 27-year-old France international from keeping cats for five years.

Zouma triggered international outrage after a video of him emerged in February volleying the pet across his kitchen before throwing a pair of shoes at it.

He was seen slapping the Bengal cat’s head and saying: “I’ll swear I’ll kill it.” The clip, shared on Snapchat, featured laughing emojis.

It prompted West Ham to fine him £250,000 ($315,000, 294,000 euros). He lost a lucrative sponsorship deal and selection for France.

The Premier League player arrived at court surrounded by burly minders to face a scrum of waiting media and a person dressed up as a cat.

READ ALSO: Pogba To Leave Manchester United

As he went inside, the lone demonstrator gave him a thumbs down.

District judge Susan Holdham told Zouma and his younger brother Yoan, who filmed the incident, that their actions were “disgraceful and reprehensible”.

“You must be aware that others look up to you and many young people aspire to emulate you,” she said but accepted that both expressed “genuine remorse”.

Kurt Zouma pleaded guilty last month to two counts under the Animal Welfare Act of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

As well as the community penalty and ban on keeping cats, he was told to pay court costs of nearly £9,000.

Yoan Zouma, 24, admitted one count of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring his older brother to commit an offence.

He was sentenced to 140 hours of community service.

Yoan, a lower-league footballer, sent the video to a woman he was due to go on a date with but she called off the meeting after seeing the footage.

“I don’t think hitting a cat like that is OK — don’t bother coming today,” she told him.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which brought the prosecution, has called the brothers’ actions “shocking”.

“We hope this case will serve as a reminder that all animals deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion and respect, and that we will not tolerate cruelty by anybody,” said RSPCA chief inspectorate officer Dermot Murphy.

West Ham said after the case that it condemned “in the strongest terms any form of animal abuse or cruelty”.

“This type of behaviour is unacceptable and is not in line with the values of the football club,” it added in a statement.

“Within 48 hours of the footage emerging, we fined Kurt the maximum available to the club,” it said. The money had been donated to animal welfare groups.

AFP

Man City Keep Title Fate In Their Hands Despite West Ham Scare

Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the London Stadium, in London on May 15, 2022. Ian Kington / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Manchester City staged a thrilling fightback from two goals down to keep the destiny of the Premier League title in their hands, but Riyad Mahrez’s late penalty miss forced the leaders to settle for a dramatic 2-2 draw at West Ham on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s side were in danger of gifting second placed Liverpool a title lifeline after West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen struck twice in the first half.

But City’s stirring recovery showed the character that has already brought them three titles in the last four seasons.

Jack Grealish got one back soon after the interval and Vladimir Coufal’s own goal completed City’s escape act.

It should have been even better for City, but Mahrez’s penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski with five minutes left.

While that was a bitter blow to Guardiola, who stood ashen-faced on the touchline, in the circumstances City will be relieved to have moved four points clear of Liverpool with a goal difference seven better than their rivals.

They will retain the title if Jurgen Klopp’s side lose their game in hand at Southampton on Tuesday.

If Liverpool beat Southampton to close the gap to one point, Guardiola’s men can still clinch the trophy with a victory against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on May 22.

A title race for the ages could well go down to the last day of the season, when Liverpool host Wolves, as it did when City pipped the Reds to first place in 2019.

Guardiola said this week he wants players with a “special mentality” as he looks to bolster his squad for next season, personalities who, like him, wake up every day obsessed with winning.

City’s enthralling revival to extend their unbeaten league run to 11 matches showed Guardiola already has plenty of fighters in his squad, although he might not put Mahrez on penalty duties again for a while.

Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho were passed fit in start in City’s defence after suffering injuries in Wednesday’s win at Wolves.

But City were already without injured defenders Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker and they didn’t look comfortable at the back from the opening moments.

READ ALSO: Tottenham Move Temporarily Into Top Four After Burnley Win

On a Knife-Edge 

West Ham United’s Czech defender Vladimir Coufal (L) and Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne speak at the end of the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at the London Stadium, in London on May 15, 2022. Ian Kington / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Craig Dawson got behind Oleksandr Zinchenko to meet Pablo Fornals’ cross, but with the goal at his mercy, the West Ham defender headed over.

That early threat seemed to fluster City, who controlled possession but found it difficult to create clear chances with West Ham happy to defend deep and strike on the counter.

Just as City looked set to turn the screw, they were hit with a sucker punch in the 24th minute.

Fornals’ opportunistic pass caught Laporte and Zinchenko trying to play offside and Bowen nipped in behind, rounding Ederson before slotting home from a tight angle.

Although West Ham had nothing to play for, they had already beaten Liverpool and Chelsea at home and this was no easy ride for City as David Moyes’ game-plan exposed the flaws in the leaders’ commitment to all-out attack.

City’s soft centre was exposed again on the stroke of half-time.

Fabianski’s long kick was headed on and Michail Antonio clipped his pass beyond Zinchenko, freeing Bowen to sprint clear and shoot low past Ederson.

Desperately needing a quick response after the break, Grealish gave City a lifeline in the 49th minute.

Rodri’s flick reached Grealish and his shot bounced into the ground, going through Dawson’s legs and past the wrong-footed Fabianski.

That was the signal for City to lay seige to the West Ham goal.

Fabianski saved Jesus’s drive with his legs, then kept out Bernardo Silva’s volley.

City’s relentless pressure was rewarded in the 69th minute when Mahrez’s free-kick was headed into his own net by the diving Coufal.

The drama wasn’t over and City were awarded an 85th minute penalty after a VAR review of Dawson’s trip on Jesus.

Mahrez stepped up with a chance to almost seal the title, but Fabianski dived to his left to make a save that kept the title race on a knife edge.

AFP

West Ham See Red As Frankfurt Reach Europa League Final


Frankfurt’s Colombian forward Rafael Borre celebrates scoring the opening goal with his teammates during the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg football match Eintracht Frankfurt v West Ham United in Frankfurt, western Germany on May 5, 2022. Christof STACHE / AFP

 

Eintracht Frankfurt reached their first European final for 42 years after a 1-0 home win on Thursday over 10-man West Ham sealed a 3-1 aggregate victory in their Europa League semi-final.

West Ham had left-back Aaron Cresswell sent off early on and Hammers manager David Moyes was also dismissed from the sidelines with 12 minutes left for arguing with the referee.

Colombia striker Rafael Borre netted the first-half winner on the night to book Frankfurt a place in the Europa League final on May 18 in Seville against Scottish giants Rangers.

Borre scored just after Cresswell was sent off, leaving the visitors a man down for more than an hour and needing to score twice just to force extra time.

Frankfurt had been dealt an early blow when key defender Martin Hinteregger limped off with a leg injury.

READ ALSO: Rangers Roar Into Europa League Final

When a long ball put Frankfurt’s Jens Hauge into space, Cresswell pulled back the Norwegian, who went down just outside the area.

Cresswell, who was also sent off in the quarter-final first leg against Lyon, was initially only booked, but referee Jesus Gil Manzano brandished the red card after a VAR review.

Moyes responded by swapping Ben Johnson for forward Manuel Lanzini.

Yet Frankfurt went ahead in the 26th minute.

When the hosts attacked down the right flank, Ansgar Knauff’s cross found Borre, who fired home unmarked in the area.

Dogged defending in the second half restricted Frankfurt to just a handful of chances for Knauff and Filip Kostic, who caused havoc on the left.

West Ham had chances of their own and as the visitors pushed for an equaliser, Manzano banished Moyes to the stands after the Scot lost his temper.

Frankfurt, who lost to Chelsea on penalties in the 2019 Europa League semi-finals, are into their first European final since winning the UEFA Cup in 1979/80.

AFP

EPL: Arsenal Beat West Ham To Tighten Grip On Top-Four

Arsenal’s Brazilian defender Gabriel (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Arsenal at the London Stadium, in London on May 1, 2022. Ian Kington / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Arsenal maintained their two-point lead over Tottenham in the battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

They were 2-1 winners at West Ham to move back above Spurs, who earlier beat Leicester 3-1 thanks to a Son Heung-min double.

Arsenal’s centre-backs got the job done to keep the Gunners on course to end a five-year absence from the Champions League.

Rob Holding’s header from Bukayo Saka’s corner put the visitors in front at the London Stadium.

READ ALSO: Everton Shock Chelsea To Boost Premier League Survival Hopes

West Ham had one eye on the second leg of their Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt in midweek, but David Moyes named a strong side and was rewarded with an equaliser before half-time from Jarrod Bowen.

The Hammers’ strength from set-pieces has been one of the successes of their season.

But they were undone at the back from another corner as this time Gabriel Magalhaes turned in Gabriel Martinelli’s cross.

Tottenham took full advantage of Leicester naming a much-changed side ahead of their Europa Conference League second leg against Roma.

Harry Kane powered home a header from Son’s corner midway through the first half and Son doubled the lead on the hour mark after a pass from substitute Dejan Kulusevski.

Son scored a third in the 79th minute to kill the game, curling an unstoppable effort into the top corner for his 19th Premier League goal of the season before a late consolation for Kelechi Iheanacho.

“No-one could have imagined when I arrived in November we could be in this race still, but these players are deserving to fight for such an important place,” Conte told the BBC.

“It is not easy to qualify for the Champions League in England.”

The battle for fourth could come down to a north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal on May 12.

But Mikel Arteta’s men will hope to extend their lead to five points next weekend when they host relegation-threatened Leeds, while Spurs face a daunting trip to title-chasing Liverpool.

AFP

Pulisic Scores Late Winner As Chelsea Beat Stubborn West Ham


Chelsea’s US midfielder Christian Pulisic celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge in London on April 24, 2022. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Christian Pulisic settled Chelsea’s top four nerves as his late goal sealed a dramatic 1-0 win against West Ham, while Burnley climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone with a 1-0 victory against Wolves on Sunday.

With Liverpool looking to close the gap on leaders Manchester City to one point with a win against Merseyside rivals Everton later on Sunday, the focus in the early games was on the top four race and the relegation battle.

At Stamford Bridge, Thomas Tuchel’s side looked set to endure more angst on home turf when Jorginho’s penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski in the final minutes.

But Pulisic came off the bench to inspire third-placed Chelsea, lifting them seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham in the fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish.

READ ALSO[FIRST 11] Serena Williams’ Chelsea Ownership Push+Top Sports Stories This Week

A 4-2 defeat against Arsenal on Wednesday condemned Chelsea to three successive losses at the Bridge for the first time since 1993.

Tuchel admitted he had “no solution” for the “fragile” Chelsea defending that saw them concede 11 goals in their last three home games.

Concerned about Chelsea’s ability to hold onto their top-four berth, Tuchel made three changes from the Arsenal game as Thiago Silva replaced Malang Sarr in that creaky defence.

Silva helped solidify Chelsea’s rearguard and Pulisic’s last-gasp strike should ensure they hold onto a top-four place.

West Ham boss David Moyes left Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen, and Michail Antonio on the bench as he prioritised the club’s first European semi-final since 1976, against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday.

Referencing the swathes of empty seats around the Bridge due to ticket restrictions imposed as part of the sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, West Ham fans chanted “just like the old days, there’s nobody here”.

 Pulisic Late Show 

Following a tepid first half, Chelsea were more dynamic after the break.

Fabianski clutched N’Golo Kante’s deflected effort and the West Ham keeper plunged to his left to turn away Trevoh Chalobah’s long-range rocket.

Timo Werner twice went close as he fired into the side-netting, then stretched to poke his shot straight at Fabianski.

In the 87th minute, Silva flicked a header towards Romelu Lukaku, prompting Craig Dawson to concede a penalty with a pull on the substitute.

Dawson was initially booked before being sent off after a VAR check, but West Ham avoided further punishment as Jorginho’s weak spot-kick was easily saved by Fabianski.

But Pulisic sparred Jorginho’s blushes in the 90th minute as the United States forward met Marcos Alonso’s cross with a clinical low finish from 10 yards.

Burnley boosted their bid for a remarkable escape act as they moved into 17th place thanks to Matej Vydra’s second-half strike.

Since Sean Dyche’s surprise sacking after 10 years in charge, Burnley’s caretaker boss Mike Jackson has taken seven points from three games to revive their hopes of beating the drop.

Vydra had a second-half goal disallowed for offside, but he didn’t have to wait long to celebrate as he netted in the 62nd minute with a composed close-range finish from Wout Weghorst’s cross.

Burnley moved two points above third-bottom Everton, who have two games in hand as they look to avoid playing outside the top tier since 1954

James Ward-Prowse scored twice as Southampton came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Brighton.

Danny Welbeck put Brighton ahead with a close-range finish after just two minutes and Mohammed Salisu turned Leandro Trossard’s cross into his own net for a 44th-minute own goal.

Ward-Prowse reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time with his 14th successful Premier League free-kick, just four behind David Beckham’s record of 18.

He struck again nine minutes later, this time producing a clinical finish from the edge of the area.

AFP

West Ham Donate To Animal Charities After Zouma Cat Abuse

In this file photo, West Ham United’s French defender Kurt Zouma warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium, in London on February 8, 2022. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

West Ham have donated to nine animal welfare charities after their French defender Kurt Zouma was caught kicking his pet cat.

Zouma was charged by the RSPCA after social media footage emerged last month showing the centre-back kicking and slapping the cat.

A shoe was also thrown at the animal, while laughter was heard in the background.

The 27-year-old’s two cats were confiscated by the RSPCA and West Ham fined him the maximum two weeks’ wages, believed to be around £250,000 ($329,000).

Zouma lost a sponsorship deal with his personal kit supplier Adidas following the incident.

The Premier League club on Friday revealed that “significant payments” have been made to nine animal charities at home and abroad.

READ ALSOChelsea Allowed To Sell Tickets Under New Licence

“West Ham United is pleased to confirm that financial donations have been made to a number of animal welfare charities following the club fine handed to Kurt Zouma,” a statement said.

“A total of nine organisations, supporting the care and wellbeing of animals both in the United Kingdom and internationally, have been identified to receive significant payments which will go towards supporting the fantastic work they do.”

The charities include Cats Protection, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals and International Fund Animal Welfare, which is currently providing support to animal shelters operating in war-torn Ukraine.

“West Ham United would like to thank everyone who contacted the club to propose animal welfare charities and good causes, along with our supporters who have been involved in the process of identifying those who have received financial support, ensuring that a huge positive has come from something negative,” the club said.

AFP

First 11: Ex-Nigerian Player Turns Bus Driver + Biggest Sports Stories This Week

 

 

Another action-packed week is rolling by and sports fans will look back to relish the beautiful and at other times, sad memories of the past seven days. 

Like previous editions, First 11, captures some of these moments, helping you make sense of the ever-busy sporting world!

Olympic Gold Medallist Turns Taxi Driver

Obiekwu played alongside former Arsenal star, Kanu Nwankwo. [email protected]://twitter.com/EmedosiN

 

Former Nigerian defender, Kingsley Obiekwu, made headlines during the week after news broke that he had become a taxi driver. Obiekwu was part of the U-23 side that won Africa’s first football gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games.  Social media was on meltdown as the news made it to the internet. Many lamented the current state of the former defender.

In the wake of the discovery, Super Eagles skipper, Ahmed Musa, reportedly donated N2m to the ex-player who now lives in Enugu State. The Olympic gold medallist said he opened up on his condition so he could get help. Aside from Kanu Nwankwo, Obiekwu said he has had limited interactions with his former teammates. According to him, he picked up the driving job to augment his football management duties.

FG Settles Athletes

Enoch Adegoke and Usheoritse Itsekiri

 

Earlier in the week, the Federal Government paid the medical bills of two athletes injured during the Olympic Games last year. Enoch Adegoke and Usheoritse Itsekiri suffered hamstring injuries while competing at the Games. The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development confirmed the payment of two million, one hundred and seventy thousand naira each to the athletes.

Okagbare Banned

Blessing Okagbare tests positive for human growth hormone and EPO that forces her to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics
A file photo taken on July 30, 2021, shows Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. Jewel SAMAD / AFP

 

But there was also bad news for the country’s athletics as the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) slammed a 10-year ban on 2008 long jump silver medallist, Blessing Okagbare.

“The Disciplinary Tribunal has banned Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare for a total of 10 years,” the AIU said.

The 33-year-old was earlier expelled from the 2020 Olympics. The dismissal was just before the women’s 100m semi-finals after she tested positive for human growth hormone at an out-of-competition test in Slovakia on July 19.

D’Tigress Seals World Cup Qualification

The Nigerian girls are the African champions. Photo: FIBA.

 

But the female basketball team gave Nigerians more reasons to cheer after they sealed their qualification for the 2022 World Cup. The D’Tigress defeated Mali in their final qualification game on Sunday to hoist the country’s flag at the championship billed for September in Australia.

The Nigerian side had bounced back from defeat to China in their first game before stunning France to keep their qualification hopes alive in Belgrade, Serbia.

A ‘Non-Negotiable’ Deal

Nigeria take on Ghana for the World Cup playoff. Credit: [email protected] Pinnick.

 

The Super Eagles are also aiming to replicate the D’Tigress feat when they take on Ghana in a 2022 World Cup play-off next month.

During a meeting with UK-based players, the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, maintained that qualification for the tournament is sacrosanct.  The football chief, who visited the players alongside the coaching crew, assured that the NFF will support the team in their quest for a ticket to Qatar later in the year. The players also expressed optimism that the three-time African champions will make it to the competition.

Mbappe Steals Show

Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) shoots and scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on February 15, 2022. Alain JOCARD / AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe (C) shoots and scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on February 15, 2022. Alain JOCARD / AFP

 

Moving away from Nigeria, the UEFA Champions League returned midweek as Paris Saint-Germain (PSG)’s game with Real Madrid headlined the latest round of matches. Youngster, Kyrian Mbappe, stole the show in Paris, outshining Lionel Messi as the French team defeated the former European champions. Mbappe grabbed a late winner in the last 16 tie as the clash ended one nil in PSG’s favour.

Barcelona’s Struggle Continue

Barcelona's Spanish defender Gerard Pique (L) vies with Napoli's Nigeria's forward Victor Osimhen during the Europa League football match between FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 17, 2022. Josep LAGO / AFP
Barcelona’s Spanish defender Gerard Pique (L) vies with Napoli’s Nigeria’s forward Victor Osimhen during the Europa League football match between FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 17, 2022. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

After Mbappe’s masterclass, attention turned to the Europa League where Barcelona and Napoli battled for supremacy. The Catalan’s poor run, however, continued as they struggled to hold the Italian side to a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp. Thursday’s draw will be a major concern for Xavi who is rebuilding the team following the departure of Messi.

Manchester United’s Captaincy Row

A file photo of Manchester United’s Captain, Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo

 

Former winners of the competition, Manchester United, are in the news over a captaincy row between Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire. Multiple reports had suggested that the duo is at loggerheads over the team’s leadership. Interim coach, Ralf Rangnick, is, however, not ready to stripe the England international of the armband despite calls for that. The player himself dismissed reports of a dressing room row at the Old Trafford.

Robinho’s Wanted!

Italy's highest court has upheld former Brazil forward Robinho's nine-year sentence for the gang rape of a young woman
Photo Credit: Gistmattaz

 

On Wednesday, Italian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for former Brazillian player, Robinho. The move followed the confirmation of the former AC Milan player’s conviction for rape. The Italian Ministry of Justice has also asked Interpol to enact the warrant.

A Milan court had in 2017 found Robinho and five other Brazilians guilty of gang-raping a lady after plying her with alcohol in a discotheque. The conviction was confirmed by an appeals court in 2020 and validated by Italy’s Supreme Court in January. Brazil, however, does not extradite its nationals, meaning the former Manchester City star faces arrest when he leaves his country.

Djokovic Eyes Comeback

In this file photo, Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes part in a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 13, 2022. Mike FREY / AFP

 

Serbian star, Novak Djokovic, is eager to return to the court and is eyeing a comeback in Dubai. The World number one was at the centre of a vaccine row which pushed him out from defending his Australian Open crown.

Djokovic, who was deported from Australia over his vaccination status and toured the Serbian pavilion at Dubai Expo, said he missed the game.

“I am excited to go back and play on Monday,” he said, referring to the Dubai ATP tournament during brief remarks to the media. “I miss tennis after all that has happened.”

West Ham Drop Zouma

West Ham United’s French defender Kurt Zouma warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium, in London on February 8, 2022. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

In England, West Ham coach, David Moyes, said Kurt Zouma was dropped for the 2-2 draw with Everton due to illness. The defender was listed in the squad for the clash despite criticisms over a viral video showing him abusing his cat. West Ham had earlier fined the player for the act, days after the former Chelsea player apologised for the incident.

Why Zouma Missed West Ham’s Match Against Leicester City  – Moyes 

West Ham United’s French defender Kurt Zouma warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium, in London on February 8, 2022. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

West Ham manager David Moyes said Kurt Zouma missed Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Leicester due to sickness after he was withdrawn from the starting line-up minutes before kick-off.

The French defender had initially been named Moyes’ team despite fury in recent days over a video that showed Zouma physically abusing his cat.

Moyes has been heavily criticised for not dropping the 27-year-old.

READ ALSO: West Ham Under Pressure To Drop Zouma As They Battle For Top Four

However, he revealed it was ill health that kept Zouma out rather than a late change of heart by the club or player for him to start.

“Kurt was not well last night, was sick during the night, and did not eat with us today and stayed out of the meeting,” said Moyes.

“We did that just in case it was a Covid symptom but it has been sickness. He just could not make it and he was really desperate to play.”

Zouma has been fined the maximum amount of two weeks’ wages by the Hammers, reportedly around £250,000 ($340,000).

The centre-back started in a 1-0 win against Watford on Tuesday, just hours after the video was released, and was booed by both sets of supporters.

Zouma has lost his sponsorship deal with sportswear giant Adidas over the video which shows him hitting and kicking his cat and throwing a shoe at the animal while laughter was heard in the background.

West Ham have also lost sponsors with insurance and investment company Vitality and Experience Kissimmee, the tourist board of the Florida city, withdrawing their support.

The RSPCA and Essex police are working together to investigate the incident, with the animal charity taking Zouma’s pet to check on its well-being.

“I don’t think the club could take more action or any quicker. West Ham have fined him the maximum wages. We all accept the actions are terrible and diabolical,” Moyes said on Friday.

National League club Dagenham and Redbridge have suspended Zouma’s brother Yoan, who is understood to have filmed the video.

West Ham, who sit fourth in the Premier League, are aiming to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history by finishing in the top four of the English top-flight.

AFP

West Ham Under Pressure To Drop Zouma As They Battle For Top Four

West Ham United’s French defender Kurt Zouma controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium, in London on February 8, 2022.
Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

 

West Ham manager David Moyes is in the spotlight ahead of his side’s trip to Leicester on Sunday, with the build-up overshadowed by the fallout from a video showing defender Kurt Zouma physically abusing his cat.

The Hammers have upset the odds to lead Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham in the battle for a place in next season’s Champions League.

But Moyes’ decision to play Zouma in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Watford, just hours after a video emerged of the Frenchman kicking and slapping his pet, was seen by many as a misjudgement.

West Ham have fined the 27-year-old France international “the maximum amount possible”, understood to be about £250,000 ($340,000), but the incident has been damaging, with the London club losing sponsors.

Moyes’ decision to play Zouma on Tuesday has been fiercely criticised by prominent sporting and political figures.

“He should be dropped. I don’t know what they were thinking of playing him the other night,” said Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party. “That was just a mistake.”

More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Zouma to be prosecuted as the public backlash intensifies in a country renowned for its love of animals.

Moyes is not the only manager under pressure at the King Power on Sunday, with Brendan Rodgers scrambling to revive Leicester’s fortunes.

Rodgers was touted as a candidate to be Manchester United’s next permanent boss earlier in the season after leading Leicester to FA Cup glory for the first time in the club’s history.

However, their cup defence ended in an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Championship side Nottingham Forest last weekend and a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on Thursday left them languishing in 12th spot in the table.

– Man Utd stumble –
Manchester United and Tottenham also have to bounce back from poor midweek results that cost them ground in the race for the top four.

United were held 1-1 at bottom-of-the-table Burnley, while Spurs blew a 2-1 lead late on to lose 3-2 at home to Southampton.

Tottenham could drop as low as eighth if they lose to Wolves on Sunday and manager Antonio Conte is not confident of their chances of climbing into the top four despite having games in hand.

“This season we are going to struggle to get three points,” said the Italian.

“If we want to grow and try to be competitive as a team, the first thing you have to improve is stability. Not be up and down, up and down.”

Frank Lampard also suffered a disappointing start to life in the Premier League with Everton on Tuesday as a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle left the Toffees perilously placed just above the relegation zone.

Everton have been in England’s top flight since 1954 but are sinking like a stone, with just one win in their past 15 league games.

Leeds’ trip to Goodison Park on Saturday gives Lampard’s team the chance to earn themselves some breathing space, with relegation-threatened Norwich facing leaders Manchester City and Burnley hosting Liverpool.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Manchester United v Southampton (1230), Brentford v Crystal Palace, Everton v Leeds, Watford v Brighton (all 1500), Norwich v Manchester City (1730)

Sunday

Burnley v Liverpool, Newcastle v Aston Villa, Tottenham v Wolves (all 1400), Leicester v West Ham (1630)