* Arsenal FC beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in the English Premier League match on Sunday, January 1, 2017 to open an account that they are indeed title contenders
* One time out of favour striker, Frenchman Olivier Giroud started the victory party by scoring a sumptuous scorpion goal that made everyone ecstatic
The race for who becomes the Premier League king continues as Arsenal Football Club brushed past Crystal Palace at the Emirates yesterday by two unreplied goals to show they are real title contenders and not pretenders.
Olivier Giroud put the ball into the net in the first half when Arsenal dangerman Alexis Sanchez crossed the ball to him, before Alex Iwobi scored a looping header to put the match beyond their visitors, Crystal Palace. The goal by Giroud was a statement by the former Ligue One player that he deserves a permanent first team shirt with the Gunners.
The Frenchman striker’s goal was a bit similar to Manchester United Henrik Mikhitaryn’s scorpion goal in a recent EPL match. However, the Arsenal goal poacher’s own was out of this world.
The goal was nicknamed “The Perfect Goal” by some football pundits.
Coach Stanley Eguma has admitted his Rivers United are in for two tough matches against AS Real Bamako of Mali in a preliminary round of the 2017 CAF Champions League.
Rivers United travel to Bamako to face the six-time Malian champions in the first leg in February 2017, before navigating the return fixture a week later in Port Harcourt.
Eguma said the ties will represent a difficult proposition for his side as they look to make a favourable impression in their first-ever expedition into the waters of Africa’s premier club competition.
“I see the draw to face AS Real Bamako as an extremely tough one because they are a very big club,” he admitted.
“They have a rich pedigree in Caf inter-club competitions and have a history of producing plenty of players for Mali’s senior national team.”
“Mali’s heritage in both the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and African Championship of Nations (CHAN) defines them as a very strong footballing Nation so AS Real Bamako must be respected.
“Don’t also forget that AS Real Bamako knocked (seven-time Nigerian champions), Enyimba out of this same competition in 2014.”
Eguma, a veteran of many CAF Champions League battles with former clubs Enyimba and Dolphins is however not daunted by the prospect of facing such a tough opposition.
The experienced coach explained that painstakingly detailed-pre-season preparations will put his side in fine fettle for the task at hand.
“We have prepared very well for this tournament and it is actually a blessing in disguise that we start meeting the stronger sides from the early (stages of the competition),” he said
“To become a champion, you must be ready to face the best.
“If we must beat Real Bamako over two legs, everyone involved with the football club must be united, work hard and stay focused on the task ahead,” he said.
Rivers United’s first leg clash with AS Real Bamako will take hold at the Stade Mamadou Konaté in Bamako on the weekend of February 10-12 with the second leg coming up a week later at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has reduced Real Madrid transfer ban halved after an appeal, the club would be able to sign players in 2017 summer transfer window.
Madrid, along with city rivals, Atletico Madrid, were hit with bans in January 2016 after FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee found them to be in breach of regulations “relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.”
Spanish champions, Barcelona were hit with a similar sanction in 2014, while an appeal to FIFA failed in September, prompting Madrid to take their claim to CAS.
A statement on Real’s official website read: “The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has today informed Real Madrid C. F. of their decision by which they have partially upheld the appeal lodged by the club against the FIFA resolution which imposed a sanction forbidding the signing of players for two transfer windows, reducing said sanction to just one period, corresponding to the January 2017 transfer window.
“The decision highlights the injustice of the original ban imposed by FIFA, although the club regrets that the CAS lacked the courage to revoke the ruling entirely.”
FIFA had imposed a one-year transfer ban in January before its appeal panel confirmed the sanction to take effect in 2017.
Madrid denied wrongdoing in signing young players from outside Spain who played in games since 2005.
The case involved the sons of current coach, Zinedine Zidane.
Pakistan Cricket team defeated Australia but fell short of completing a world record run chase of their opponent in first Test in Brisbane on Monday.
The tourists, set a target of 490, began the final day on 382-8 and were on target for a famous victory until Asad Shafiq fell for 137 at 449-9
Yasir Shah was run out by Steve Smith’s direct hit from second slip four balls later as the home side won by 39 runs in day five.
The record for the highest successful Test chase is West Indies’ 418-7 to beat Australia in Antigua in 2003, however, Pakistan’s 450 all out equals the third highest score made in the fourth innings of any Test.
Man of the match Shafiq, who reached his century just before the end of day four, had expertly shepherded the tail, sharing half-century stands for the seventh, eighth and ninth wicket – the first time this had happened in a Test – with Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Yasir.
But when Shafiq fended off a Mitchell Starc bouncer to David Warner at gully, the Australians were swiftly able to wrap up victory in the 22nd over of the final day of this day-night encounter as Yasir fell after skipper Smith’s direct hit caught him out of his crease.
The three-match series continues with the traditional Boxing Day Test in Melbourne on 26 December.
Nigeria Super Eagles head coach, Gernot Rohr, has confirmed that team captain, John Obi Mikel is in talks to join French club, Marseille after being frozen out at Chelsea under Antonio Conte.
Mikel, 29, has not featured in a single matchday squad for the Blues this season, having been surpassed in the midfield pecking order by summer signing N’Golo Kante and academy graduate, Nathaniel Chalobah.
Chelsea are not expected to offer the Nigeria international an extension to his current contract, which expires next summer, and back in September he revealed he was making plans for the next stage of his career after 10 trophy-laden years at Stamford Bridge.
“I saw Obi Mikel in London. He is in advanced discussions with Olympique Marseille. “He will leave Chelsea for free, this is a serious option.” Rohr said.
Mikel has made 368 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions since arriving in a controversial transfer from Lyn Oslo in June 2006, scoring six goals and winning 10 major trophies at Stamford Bridge, including two Premier League titles and the 2012 Champions League.
But after missing much of preseason to represent Nigeria at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the summer, Mikel has been unable to break into Conte’s first-team plans as Chelsea overcame a shaky September to record 11 Premier League wins in a row and surge seven points clear at the top of the table.
Asked about Mikel’s contract situation in November, Conte said: “Have I spoken to him now? No, but I repeat, now it’s important to be focused on the championship in this period. We are in November. It’s important to be focused on the pitch. Then, we can focus on other situations in time.
“It’s normal in every squad, there are players who are towards the end of their contract, and they and the club together take a decision on their futures.
“Mikel is working very well now. In the past he’s sometimes had some injuries. But now he’s working very hard, and I’m pleased with his work rate.” Rohr added.
President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the immediate payment of all outstanding allowances and bonuses being owed the Super Falcons, an official said on Wednesday, December 14 in Abuja, the nation’s federal capital.
The Falcons had earlier on Wednesday embarked on a protest march against the non-payment of their allowances by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
The footballers, who won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, AWCON, for the eighth time in Cameroon, initially refused to leave their hotel rooms at Agura Hotel in Abuja.
They had, upon returning from the competition which they won on December 3, been waiting for the payment at the hotel where they were accommodated by the NFF.
But on Wednesday they staged a protest march, carrying various placards with inscriptions along the roads between the National Assembly and the secretariat gate of the Presidential Villa.
The protest was planned to coincide with the appearance of President Muhammadu Buhari who was scheduled to present the 2017 budget to the National Assembly on Wednesday.
Speaking later, the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari, told State House correspondents on Wednesday that the issue had been resolved.
He said government had since directed appropriate authorities to settle the players’ allowances and bonuses.
“The problem has been resolved. They have done us proud and we congratulated them. The Ministries of Sports and Finance have been directed to pay tomorrow (Thursday).
“I don’t know the details of the arrears. But they have been directed to pay,” the presidential aide said.
Mr. Kyari, who earlier spoke with the players on Wednesday during their protest march to the Aso Rock Villa gate, urged them to return to their hotel rooms.
He assured them that their outstanding payment would be settled within 24 hours.
The players, led by team captain Rita Chikwelu, had during the protest expressed their displeasure at the non-payment of their allowances and bonuses.
Also, the Senate Committee on Sports on Wednesday in Abuja assured the Super Falcons of payment of their outstanding allowances.
Chairman of the committee, Obinna Ogba, told the players that the Senate was committed to ensuring that their allowances were paid.
The meeting with the Falcons followed a protest march staged by the Falcons requesting payment of their outstanding allowances.
“Let me inform you that my Committee has been mandated to investigate activities of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with regards to the face-off.
“I assure you that having made the nation proud, you will be paid.”
Also speaking, Samuel Anyanwu, a member of the committee, expressed dissatisfaction with the manner the players were treated, and called for patience to enable the Committee to step in.
“I feel very hurt at the behaviour of the NFF, which should have been better in view of your feat. You should be patient and guard your utterances so that we can do something about this case.
“The Senate will investigate activities of NFF, because this type of issue has been a recurring decimal in the federation,’’ he added.
In her remarks, captain of the Falcons, Rita Chikwelu, lamented that the NFF did not treat them well when playing in Cameroon during the 2016 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
Explaining their ordeal, she said they were ordered out of the hotel at Douala in Cameroon the very night they won the competition.
She said this led them to sleeping at the airport with the competition’s trophy they won by beating hosts Cameroon 1-0 on December 3.
“Officials of NFF did not encourage us at all in Cameroon. We never saw the NFF President (Amaju Pinnick) and General Secretary (Mohammed Sanusi) in Yaounde when we played in the semi-finals.
“Surprisingly, we saw them in the crowd at Douala where we played the final match and having won that night they asked us to leave.”
Cesc Fabregas made his case for a future at Chelsea as he inspired the Blues to a 1-0 win over Sunderland.
Antonio Conte’s side claimed their 10th league win in a row despite struggling to break down a sturdy but unambitious Sunderland side, with the invention of Fabregas, who had been warned by his manager that his future beyond January was in doubt, at the heart of Chelsea’s few quality moments.
David Moyes set his stall out before kick-off as he named seven defenders in a 3-4-3 formation that, whilst theoretically matching Chelsea’s system, bore next to nothing in common with Conte’s tactical approach.
The hosts sat deep with Jason Denayer and Jan Kirchoff rarely moving from their positions in front of the backline. All too often it was too firm a wall for Chelsea to penetrate, though Adnan Januzaj’s tactical indiscipline all too often gave space for an overlapping Marcos Alonso.
His cross gave Diego Costa the only half chance of the first 40 minutes but the league’s top scorer was unable to keep a difficult first-time volley on target.
Jordan Pickford was continuing his fine run of form in the Sunderland goal, saving smartly from an offside Pedro, and it seemed the Sunderland rearguard was not to be breached until Fabregas drove forward with purpose.
Combining smartly with Willian he slotted home from the edge of the box to cool Chelsea nerves whilst reminding Conte what he can bring to the Blues midfield.
Chelsea could have had a second before the break after Costa was brought down chasing a fine pass from Fabregas but Willian smacked the resulting free-kick against the bar. The Brazilian repeated the trick early in the second period, sprinting past Lamine Kone but seeing his powerful effort deflecting off former team-mate Papy Djilobodji and onto the bar.
Desperate for at least a point, the league’s bottom side came out with renewed intent after the interval but in truth their new found attacking endeavour did little more than open up space for Diego Costa and company, who began seeing more chances around the Sunderland box.
Thibaut Courtois, though, had to be live to a rare Sunderland burst forward that culminated in Januzaj driving low at his bottom corner. The Chelsea goalkeeper stuck out a leg to deflect the effort away.
Eighty minutes of mostly excellent defending had taken their toll on Sunderland though, who seemed unable to rouse themselves for a late siege of the Chelsea goal as the visitors secured a close victory in relative comfort.
Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Solomon Dalong Thursday, December 8 stated that the federal government has not been able to pay the allowances of the Super Falcons because their victory in Cameroon was not expected.
Recall that the team on Saturday won the 2016 African Women Cup of Nations but had not been paid their allowances.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa, Abuja, Dalong said that there was no money readily available to pay them. He however said that efforts were being made to find solution to the matter.
He said: “It is unfortunate that we are celebrating victory of the Super Falcons amidst some bitter feelings among the players because of some administrative lapses that were not managed properly because if the situation was explained to these girls, I don’t think the situation would have gotten to this level.
“They have stamped their authority and dominance over football in the continent, having consistently won the trophy eight times.
“After the girls came back from Cameroon, we had launched with them and they were in high spirits, the communication gap in trying to convey the situation to them could have been what led to it.”
The Nigerian Super Falcons tutored by a former Super Falcons Captain Florence Omagbemi have emerged champions of Africa again after beating Cameroon 1-0 in the finals of the 2016 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations on Saturday, December 3.
Desire Oparanozie scored the only goal that saw the Falcons beat the Indomitable Lionesses in a nervy final match played at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Omnisports Stadium in Yaoundé.
The win has seen Nigeria secure their eight African title even as Coach of the Nigeria team, Omagbemi became the second individual to win the AWCON as a player and a coach.