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Football (16)

Manchester City won the Carabao Cup on Sunday, the first trophy of the Pep Guardiola, brushing Arsenal aside 3-0. It was an impressive statement of intent from Guardiola’s team at Wembley after a shock FA Cup defeat to lowly Wigan last week ended their bid for an unprecedented quadruple. City opened the scoring in the 18th minute when a long punt upfield from goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was controlled by Aguero, who coolly lifted the ball over a helpless David Ospina in the Arsenal goal. Captain Vincent Kompany doubled the lead in the second half with just over half an hour to go and David Silva put the game out of the reach of Arsene Wenger’s team. The runaway Premier League leaders will be hoping to use the victory as a springboard to greater glory as the season approaches its final stretch but defeat for Wenger means he has never lifted the League Cup. On a bitterly cold, clear day in London, City, in their light blue kit, took control early, playing measured football and enjoying the lion’s share of possession against a side who have made Wembley a second home in recent years. But Arsenal went closest to taking the lead within the first 10 minutes, with new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seeing his scuffed shot saved by a sprawling Bravo. Seconds later Aguero found the side netting after an incisive break from City, who looked short of their fluent best. But it was Aguero who broke the deadlock, controlling the ball as Arsenal’s defence failed to deal with the danger, silencing the boisterous Arsenal fans. The Argentine striker has scored in each of his past five games in all competitions against Arsenal and this was his 199th goal in City colours. It was an unusual goal for Guardiola’s team, who have been lauded for their silky passing game this season, which has already seen them hailed as one of the finest sides in Premier League history. City made a bright start to the second half and captain Kompany was in the right place to steer home Ilkay Gundogan’s shot from the edge of the box after a Kevin De Bruyne corner in the 58th minute. It was no more than City deserved against a lacklustre Arsenal and the Belgian celebrated wildly in front of his own fans. Just seven minutes later Arsenal were left with a mountain to climb when Silva smashed the ball past Ospina into the far corner of the net to make it 3-0. Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola kept faith with reserve goalkeeper Bravo for the Wembley showpiece ahead of first-choice Ederson. Bravo has played in every round of the competition so far. Wenger also played his number two between the sticks, fielding Ospina ahead of Petr Cech. City look nailed on to win the Premier League and have virtually guaranteed a place in the Champions League quarter-finals after a 4-0 first win in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Basel.

Another upscale betting game company has just sprung up in the ancient city of Ibadan. Named Paddypaddybet, the firm has already 30 major outlets in the capital city of Oyo State. The sport betting game is gathering momentum and many are now moving into the business however Paddypaddybet’s incursion into the business is about adding value to the economic growth of Nigeria, without ripping the hard-earned money. With the 30 outlets that opened up, Padddypaddybet outfit must have generated employment opportunities for over 500 unemployed youths in and around the largest city in West Africa, Ibadan. According to interim General Manager of Padddypaddybet, Mr. Alexander Ezekiel, “People are so much in love with football in this part of the world. Like in the USA, we know they like soccer and basketball. We have twenty-two sports on our live betting platform and we also have the virtual bet. In the virtual bet, we have horse-racing, etc. We also give instant rewards to stakers who win. “Our strategy is a key to company development. We are developing the on-line and the retail network. We believe it is not everybody that has the basic computer knowledge, so we created the retail outlet for people to play. As it stands now, Paddypaddy bet will soon be taking the shine off other stakeholders in the industry, as it is very set to unveil many packages in its progamme of re-defining the betting industry.”

Egypt picked the second African ticket, after Nigeria, to the Russian FIFA World Cup, on Sunday after grinding out a 2-1 win over stubborn Congo in Alexandria. The Congolese nearly ruined Egypt’s World Cup hopes, after Boukah Moulou cancelled Mohammed Salah’s 64th minute goal in the 87th minute. But undaunted Pharaohs piled on the pressure against the visitors. Thanks to Salah again who found the net deep in stoppage time via a penalty kick, to give Egypt a memorable,hard fought victory over bottom-placed Congo. Egypt, though a powerful force in African soccer, have been missing in World Cup tournaments since 1990. They are now top of Group E with 12 points, while their closest rivals, Uganda have eight points after being held at home to a goalless draw by Ghana in Kampala on Saturday. With the Egyptians now having an unassailable four-point lead, their last match away in Ghana is just of academic interest only. And Russia is now a certainty. Winners of the three remaining tickets will be known between 10-14 November.

The Super Eagles have confirmed their place at the Russia 2018 World Cup after a hard-fought win against the Chipolopolo of Zambia at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria on Saturday. The Super eagles made impressive display against the Chipolopolo, the Zambian national team to silence them Alex Iwobi’s second half goal guaranteed Nigeria’s place at the 2018 World Cup, earning a 1-0 home win against Zambia. With that win Nigeria now has 13 points from four games while the Zambians are closing in from behind with seven points from the same number of games. It will be recalled that the Super Eagles of Nigeria began their qualification quest for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia with a wonderful strikes from the England based duo of Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho that gave Nigeria all the three points that ended in 2-1 win at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium. Nigeria has therefore, joined other countries like Brazil, Spain, Mexico, England, Germany, Iran, South Korea, etc. who have also booked their places at next year’s tournament.

It was a miserable Thursday night for Argentina as their hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup were left hanging in the balance, no thanks to resilient Peru. Argentina were held to a 0-0 draw in Buenos Aires by Peru, leaving the two-time world champions outside the automatic qualification places as they head into the final round of fixtures next Tuesday. It was another desperately disappointing display by Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who once again struggled to turn a wealth of possession into goals. Barcelona star Messi hit the post in the second half but could only watch in frustration after serving up a stream of chances for team-mates who failed to convert. The result left Argentina in sixth place in the standings. The first four teams qualify automatically, with the fifth-placed team advancing to a playoff against New Zealand in November. But with only two points separating third-placed Chile and seventh-placed Paraguay, the final standings could change dramatically depending on results on Tuesday. The AFP reported that the margin for error for Argentina, however, has narrowed after their latest setback, their third consecutive draw of a faltering qualification campaign. Argentina’s final qualifier is a challenging away trip to Ecuador in the thin air of Quito. Argentina have a poor record in the Ecuadoran capital, losing two out of three of their last World Cup qualifiers there and drawing the other. The Argentines’ last World Cup qualifying win in Quito came in 2001. However a victory on Tuesday would guarantee Argentina at least fifth place in the standings, with Peru and Colombia guaranteed to drop points against each other in their final game. Brazil, who have already qualified in first place, were held to a 0-0 draw by eliminated Bolivia in La Paz earlier Thursday. That left the focus on the teams jostling behind the five time champions for the three remaining automatic spots. Uruguay, who are second with 28 points from 17 games, missed the chance to book their place in Russia after being frustrated 0-0 away at Venezuela. Uruguay’s Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani squandered a golden chance to win the game but shot wide in the 83rd minute. The Uruguayans are all but assured of qualification however, needing only a draw or a win against lowly Bolivia in Montevideo next week to book their place. South American champions Chile, meanwhile, resurrected their qualification hopes with a thrilling 2-1 win over Ecuador in Santiago. Striker Eduardo Vargas drilled in a low shot on 22 minutes to put the 2015 & 2016 Copa America champions 1-0 up. But Alex Ibarra equalised in the 82nd minute for Ecuador to silence the home crowd. But with Chile’s fans still struggling to digest Ibarra’s strike, the hosts went back up the other end and Arsenal star rammed home a close-range finish after Arturo Vidal’s shot was only partially saved. The win saw Chile climb from sixth to third in the standings. Chile will qualify automatically if they are able to beat Brazil in their final game next week. In Barranquilla, Colombia threw away what looked to be a certain victory that would have put them within touching distance of qualification as they crashed to a 2-1 defeat to Paraguay. Radamel Falcao scored with a deft lob to put Colombia 1-0 ahead in the 79th minute. But the Colombians inexplicably continued to press forward and were twice caught on the break by Paraguay. Oscar Cardozo bundled in the equaliser for Paraguay in the 89th minute and then Tony Sanabria punished poor goalkeeping by David Ospina to poke in a second in injury time to clinch the win. AFP

Niger Tornadoes Football Club on Thursday qualified for the final of the Aiteo Cup men’s competition, in spite of losing to FC IfeanyiUbah of Nnewi their semi-final second leg match. The Minna side lost 0-1 but still qualified on a 4-3 aggregate after the match played in Nnewi. Godwin Obaje’s 85th minute goal from a penalty kick was all FC IfeanyiUbah could muster, as the visiting Niger Tornadoes held on tenaciously to their 4-2 first leg advantage

Defending champions Germany confirmed their qualification for next year’s World Cup in Russia by beating Northern Ireland 3-1 in Belfast. Sebastian Rudy shot into the top corner in the second minute, Sandro Wagner rifled home from the edge of the area, and Joshua Kimmich drove in late on. Josh Magennis headed Northern Ireland’s goal in stoppage time. Germany progress as group winners but Northern Ireland remain well placed to make November’s play-offs. Michael O’Neill’s men complete their Group C campaign in Norway on Sunday, aiming to finish among the best eight of the nine group runners-up. They will follow results elsewhere over the next two days but, as it stands, they may need a point in Oslo to make sure of reaching the play-offs, the draw for which takes place on 17 October. According to BBC, of the eight teams, the highest four in the Fifa rankings which will be published on 16 October – Northern Ireland are currently 20th – will be seeded for the play-offs.

Equatorial Guinea have been expelled from the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France for fielding 10 ineligible players and using forged documents. The players all took part in qualifying for the 2016 Olympic women’s tournament in Brazil. The latest sanctions come on top of their ban from competing at the 2020 Olympics, which was issued last year. BBC reports that Fifa has also imposed a fine of $102,000 (£77,700) on the country’s football association. An investigation by the world governing body found the 10 players were “not eligible to play for the representative team of Equatorial Guinea”. Two more players – Muriel Linda Mendoua Abessolo and Francisca Angue Ondo Asangono – were given 10-match bans after being found to have used forged and falsified documents. As well as missing the 2019 Women’s World Cup and the following year’s Olympics, Equatorial Guinea are also banned from the next two Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2018 and 2020. The initial ban from the Olympics, announced in April 2016, came after Fifa found that Camila Maria do Carmo Nobre de Oliveira used forged documents in the preliminary competition of the 2016 games. She was discovered with two passports with different birth dates and two birth certificates showing different parental information. In 2016, De Oliveira also played in Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifying against Mali, who later made an official complaint which led to the Confederation of African Football’s Nations Cup ban. The two-time continental champions were subsequently disqualified from the 2016 Nations Cup finals in Cameroon (replaced by Mali) as well as the next two tournaments.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has defended playing Sunday’s match against Las Palmas behind closed doors, describing it as “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made”. Barca won 3-0 at an empty Nou Camp after a request to have the game postponed, amid widespread political unrest in Catalonia, was turned down. Fans were locked out with the news communicated 20 minutes from kick-off. Barcelona could have faced a six-point penalty had they chosen not to play. About 850 people were injured in clashes with police as Catalonia residents voted in an independence referendum which had been declared illegal by the Spanish government. Bartomeu confirmed two directors, vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and Jordi Mones, had resigned following an extraordinary general meeting on Monday. “We very seriously considered the option of postponing the game, but we could not get the Liga de Futbol Profesional to approve our request. “Having reached that point, I decided to play behind closed doors because we believed that the image of a football match being played in a completely empty Nou Camp would have been an act of responsibility and would have been a way of showing how we utterly reject the exceptional and inadmissible situation going on around Catalonia.” Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola criticised the decision to play. Guardiola, now Manchester City boss, told Catalunya Radio and RAC1: “I wouldn’t have played the Barca-Las Palmas game, not at all. “And if it did have to be played, then not behind closed doors. You do it with the public there. With all the consequences.” Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million people in north-eastern Spain, has its own language and culture and Barcelona is its capital. It also has a high degree of autonomy, but is not recognised as a separate nation under the Spanish constitution, BBC reports.

Nigeria’s Falconets on Sunday gave their compatriots a memorable Independence Anniversary celebration by crushing Tanzania 6-0 in Dar-es-Salaam in the 2018 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup qualifiers. A brace each by Rasheedat Ajibade and Folashade Ijamilusi and a goal each by Imo Anam and Cynthia Aku steered the Nigerian under-20 women team to a memorable victory. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the victory gave them a 9-0 aggregate win, after having won the first leg match 3-0 two weeks earlier in Benin. First half of this second leg match had ended 4-0 in favour of the Falconets at the Azam Stadium. The win took the Falconets to a place in the second round of the African qualifying series. Ajibade had also netted a brace in the first leg at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, with the other goal by defender Lilian Tule. The two –time World Cup silver medallists will now square up against winners of the fixture between Morocco and Senegal in the second round, set for November 2017.

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