Manchester City 1-1 Everton: The Review – and Tweets From Rooney Trolling City Fans

  • Wayne Rooney isn’t finished, yet
  • Kyle Walker sees red in his home debut
  • Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines impressed and goalkeeper Ederson failed his first real test
  • Substitute Raheem Sterling provided the equalizer with eight minutes from time

Two goals in the two opening games for Everton this season and Wayne Rooney is casting doubts on the ‘finished’ tag he was associated with in his later years at Manchester United. As he wheeled away in excitement after putting the ball between Keeper Ederson’s legs and into the net, Rooney celebrated his 200th goal in the Premier League.

Familiar Ground: Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Manchester City. Photo credit: Rex Features

Interestingly, his 50th, 150th and now 200th goal were all against the same side.  The goal made him just the second player to score 200 EPL goals, the other being Alan Shearer with 260 goals to his name.

Referee Bobby Madley added controversy to the game as he issued two red cards in what could be called questionable decisions. The first of went to Kyle Walker who on his home debut was adjudged to have fouled Mason Holgate. The second red of the night went to Morgan Schneiderlin for what looked like a second bookable challenge on Sergio Aguero.

This left the Everton coach, Ronald Koeman, implying that the referee was trying to even things up with the second red card of the night against Morgan Schneiderlin. “I was in a better position for the second yellow of Walker and he played the ball. But away at City, sending off a player of City and you know what the referee will do then” the Everton manager said.

Pep was seen in a heated discussion with fourth official Michael Oliver at half-time as City trailed. At the restart, City controlled the game in a manner they were expected to. But they just couldn’t find a breakthrough as the Toffee back four was resilient, with Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines starring.

This coupled with the fact that the home side wasn’t as clinical as they should have been almost added up to make the Cityzens lose their first home game of the 2017/2018 Premier League season.

But Raheem Sterling’s equalizer came in the 82nd minute as he pounced on Holgate’s weak defensive header to rifle a shot into the bottom corner. For all the City push for a winner, it was not to be as Everton held firm for the draw.

The result means the unwanted record continues for Guardiola as he has never beaten Everton since becoming the City manager.

Of course, there was time for some banter after the game.

Author

Awolope Kolawole. You can follow him on twitter @Kopainzy.

Football This Past Week: The Notes…

The fever that grips every football fan when he/she wakes up on a Friday morning is one of joy, like that of an animal freed from its cage, a man liberated, from the horrors of the conventional 8-5.

I, on my part, get Goosebumps, like a man going on his first date. My love for football isn’t mutual, it is an obsession. And just like that, the liberation I felt this past Friday was immense, smacking my lips at the action that awaited football purists over the next few weeks. This was the start point of that action.

However, if there is anything we purists do, we are more of critics just as we appreciate our football and this weekend’s action brought about a few points worthy of note round the world…

  • THE REAL BATTLE IS IN BETWEEN. 

In England, all hands are on deck. As of three weeks ago, Chelsea were sleepwalking to the Premier League title. It was a foregone conclusion; the only battle was at the bottom.

That was before Sam Allardyce and Mamadou Sakho intervened.

The Blues have since lost two of their last three games while Spurs have kept up their winning streak. It was unimaginable that we would reach this stage in the league. But they brought it upon themselves.

The Blues were nowhere near their usual dominant selves in those defeats and while Sakho and Herrera put in man-of-the-match performances, Ngolo Kante and David Luiz had their performances and roles brought into question.

Spurs, on the other hand, continue to march on, and the joy in the white half of North London is in deep contrast to the emotions in the red half of the city. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have looked imperious, certain and played with a swagger and brute unlike the cowardly, uncertain and aimless football Wenger’s boys have served up since the turn of the spring.

They look like ‘WENGER’s INVINCINBLES’ right now and not the ‘INVISIBLES’ receiving instructions from the Frenchman. The desire, passion, joy and willingness to die for the shirt is there.

As for the Gunners? Not so much. For the first time, in Wenger’s time at the Emirates, Arsenal may not make the Champions league. Not because of anything, but rather because their rivals aren’t dropping points. Liverpool showed fight to down West Brom at the Hawthorns, completing the double against a team they traditionally struggle against.

Vincent Kompany showed why he is still the best centre back in the league, commandeering City and giving them the assuredness and confidence the defence has lacked in his absence.

At the other end, Sam Allardyce continued his resurgence of Palace with a draw, while Swansea are in real danger of been cut adrift at the bottom.

Only a meagre nine points separate eleventh from eighteenth, and while there is still hope, teams must look to win the war and not the battle. The attitude needed for both isn’t the same.

 

  • THE CLASICO? WE HAVE A RELEGATION FIGHT IN LA LIGA… AND IT GETS BETTER. 

If there is anygame I always mark on my calendar first once the fixture lists are released, it’s the clasico. However, while many are talking about the fact that Neymar will miss Spain’s ‘biggest game,’ it is infact at the bottom that the biggest games are taking place.

Granada and Osasuna are especially fighting for their lives. Granada’s attempt at a new approach backfired dramatically against Celta where the players did more of dancing than playing, just like their interim coach while Leganes, despite showing fight and spirit still lost to Espanyol.

The Catalans are locked in a desperate battle with the two Basque outfits as well as Villareal for a place in Europe and while the top two are well ahead of the others, a photo finish isn’t out of the picture either.

 

  •  INTER AND MILAN HAVE ONE PROBLEM: THEMSELVES. 

The Nerazurri and the Rossoneri are currently two underachieving teams. And while on Saturday they served up a fascinating game, it brought back memories of why both sides are being left behind by the two Roman sides, Juventus and Napoli.

The manner in which Inter threw away a two-goal lead was baffling and astonishing. They left a position where they could have easily seen out the game and put themselves in deep trouble. Worse still, they conceded the equalizer with the last kick of the game.

A side that lacks that mental fortitude should be nowhere near Europe’s elite. Many did praise Milan for the comeback, but it was only due to their rivals weakness that brought them back in the game. They were passive for long periods and relied heavily on the influence of Gerard Deulofeu and Suso to keep them in the game. They are miles behind Lazio, let alone the top three.

The problem at Inter is mental and psychological, in Milan? Cluelessness

 

  • THE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE & CONFEDERATIONS CUP NEW FORMAT CAN BE WORKED ON.

It’s the first time 16 teams will participate in the CAF club competitions. However, it may be better they increase it to 32 from next year. Only diehard fans of African football have followed the qualifiers and while the group stage action doesn’t start till May, it can be restructured.

The coefficients system can be readjusted. It’s sad if we cannot see fascinating football from a larger pool of teams. The two club competitions have lost top teams in this qualification stage due to reasons varying amongst themselves.

Bidvest Wits are one of them, Enugu Rangers another. Smouha and Zesco will only be playing in the CAF Confederations Cup. It is time we have teams that would of a surety reach the group stage than have a three-tier tedious qualification system. This can be facilitated by using national team coefficients, which could even see an increase in the competition at international level.

Take South Africa for instance. They have one of the best leagues in Africa; the last three South African representatives in CAF club competitions have reached the semi finals at least.

Achievements like that can be rewarded with three or four slots the following season. That’s enough motivation, one that would spur other countries on.

African football has stayed in the shadows long enough. Issa Hayatou’s heralded exit would be meaningless if changes aren’t visible from 2018 onward

Demba Ba, New Jersies and more Talking Points from #FootballThisPastWeek

It’s that time of the football season where everywhere’s quiet. Golf and other sports kick football to the back of the news queue and only ‘short scenes’ instead of ‘season-long movies’ are the order of the day.

But of course, with football, even short scenes are major sells thanks to the news media and social media. From friendlies to transfers and all, football never really gets quiet.

So, what has been happening over the past week?

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High Flyers: Iceland benefitted from their surprising display at the Euro 2016

– The Latest FIFA Rankings
FIFA, as usual, released its latest rankings of football-playing countries across the globe. Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Chile, Portugal, France, Spain, Brazil and Italy made up the top 10.

One of the biggest movers on the rankings was Venezuela that jumped 31 spots to 46th. Thanks to the Euros, Croatia, Poland and Iceland jumped up 12, 11 and 12 spots respectively to now occupy the 15th, 16th and 22nd positions. Wales jumped 15 sppts to the 11th position.

On the other, Austria dropped 11 spots to the 21st position while the Netherlands dropped 12 spots to 26th.

Nigeria? Sliding down the list as they’re now ranked the 70th best football-playing nation in the world.

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Cross-Country Move: Chelsea FC confirmed the capture of N'Golo Kante from Leicester City

– The Transfer Mart
There have been major movements in the football supermarket:

* Newcastle made its fifth signing of the summer.
* England seem to want Sam Allardyce.
* Kante joined Chelsea from Leicester (this one still baffles me).
* The 50m Pound of Stones: Everton will not sell their star defender for anything less.
* Leroy Sane moved to a new City in Manchester.
* Antonio Conte completed his move to Stamford Bridge. He came along with his record: In his three seasons with Juventus, his side never conceded more than 24 goals. It’s the first time he’s coaching outside the Italian Serie A but his “work” mantra may just work out fine for him.

Of course that’s just a little of the whole news, this one transfer market is bubbling.

– The Friendlies Season
Clubs resumed from their various hiatuses and needed to get the engines rolling. Of course, playing friendly games is the way to go!

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United started off with a win over Wigan while Antonio Conte could not get the better of Austrian side, Rapid. So much for taking charge of your first game just after two days of becoming a coach.

But of course we know the obvious: friendlies are important but they don’t determine how well a club will perform in the season. Louis van Gaal knows this too well

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New Jersies: Necessary or not? Photo credit: BleacherReport

– The New Jerseys: How Necessary Are They?
So many clubs have unveiled new kits to be used for the upcoming season. Some, great while some weren’t exactly so great. Since it has been a tradition to have new jerseys for new seasons, the question arises: Why does there have to be a new one? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right?

Most times, the jersey used by the club the season before does not become obsolete. Most fans still love it: partially because it’s their club and partially because they’ve bought it for their closet.

Now, the club goes ahead to change the style, outlook or colour of the existing jersey. It’s simply a “reformation” or “refurbishment” or “simple improvement” of the existing one. But it comes with all the fuss of a new one. Sales tactics if you ask me.

The fans (loyal, die-hard ones though) go on out there and snap them up. The “old” jersey becomes history. The trend continues over the years.

The question arises again: Is the “New Jersey for a New Season” really necessary?

Worthy Mentions
The most exciting game of the 2015/2016 NPFL season was played on Saturday. Akwa United vs Rangers International. The five-goal thriller was a “balanced diet for a football fan’s appetite.” In the end, Rangers won and ended up at the summit of the table.

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Awkward Angle: Demba Ba broke his leg while playing in China.

Demba Ba, 31 years of age, suffered a devastating and heart-wrenching injury where his leg got broken. The sight of the awkwardly-bent leg was a gory one. I ran away from the video and only managed rhe sight of the picture. Get well soon Ba. In other news, after that injury, I’m not sure of his football-playing career.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Jose Mourinho the Serious One, £100m Pogba, the NPFL and 7 More Talking Points From #FootballThisPastWeek

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Portugal: European Campeons!

I’ve got a confession to make.

Well, let’s just say it’s more of a theory I’d like to prove than a confession.

Want to know what it is? Okay, here we go!

Football is a whole lot about “could haves,” “would haves,” and “should haves.” (you agree with me right?)

Although it’s something associated with sports in general, football (or soccer for the U.S fans) gets more than its own fair share of the “what-could-have-been” tales of the sports industry.

Maybe it’s because of the worldwide reach of the game, which means there’s a massive amount of people to talk about what happened, with plenty of regard to what could have happened.

“What if the German national team was not hit by injuries? They would have beaten France.”

“Manchester United want to buy Pogba for £100m? They shouldn’t have sold him in the first place.”

“Portugal are champions of Europe? They shouldn’t have even qualified out of their group. They were that poor.”

You get the gist?

It is these kind of questions and the assumptions (and presumtions) that come along with them that makes football deep; so deep, it’s hard to cover all about football in one article.

Different opinions from different people watching from different angles. But this is what makes football fun to talk about: the endless possibilities. An ever-growing list of stuff to talk about.

And in the past week, there’s been more than enough to talk about.

From the Euro 2016, to England’s search for a coach, the players leaving and joining football clubs with weird price tags (and weird locations too!), football has been quite eventful.

Let’s review some of the talking points from football this past week shall we?

– The Euro 2016: So Far, So Good…French Hosts, Portugese Champs, French Runners-up
The European championship has come and gone. It brought drama, amazing goals, upsets and surprises.

One of the surprise, and the ultimate one,  was Portugal winning the tournament. Judging by the way they played in the group stages, they were the least-expected country to even qualify for the final.

But, they pulled a Leicester on all and, against all odds (the C. Ronaldo injury included), won the trophy.

Their opponents, the Frenchmen, couldn’t capitalise on their mistakes like they did against the Germans. The host-nation had to settle for second place.

This Euro was the one European tournament that had long-standing records tumbling over themselves. In Euro 2016,

▶ FRA which had NEVER lost an European Championship Final, after winning both the 1984 and the 2000 finals which were their only final appearances, came in second place behind Portugal.

▶ France beat Germany in the semi-final of the competition. That was the first time in 58 years that the French beat their German counterparts in competitive football.

▶ Ronaldo: With 9 Euro goals, Cristiano Ronaldo tied Platini’s 1984 record for most goals, in an European competition.

How about the weird ones?

▶ Portugal didn’t win any game in normal time until they got to the semi-final stage of the competition.

▶ Who would have thought that Griezmann would turn out to be the highest goalscorer of the tournament? Dunno bout you but, I didn’t see him scoring six before the tournament started.

▶ OFFICIAL: Renato Sanches has won the #EURO2016 Young Player of the Tournament award. A star is born. https://t.co/jwo3xnvKyy
Even Sanches could not have seen this one coming.

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Jose 'The Serious One' Mourinho

– The Jose Mourinho Press Conference
The Special One has officially become the HNIC at Manchester United (just in case you’re wondering what HNIC means, search for it a href=”www.urbandictionary.com”>here ). I’ll be waiting for you when you come back.

But after his press conference, the media changed their minds and gave Jose a new name: The Serious One. Why?

Let’s just say some tough statements, aggressive statements and some excerpts from his first press conference as a Manchester United coach:

José Mourinho:

“I was never very good at hiding behind words or hiding behind philosophies.”

José Mourinho:

Man. Utd is a Champions League club. We have to make sure in July 2017 that this club is where it belongs.

José Mourinho:

“I prefer to be more aggressive, to say that we want to win. We want to win everything.”

https://t.co/aLoZB8mmIi

José Mourinho:

“I know the responsibility, the legacy, the history. I know what the fans expect from me.”

https://t.co/zRa8RVZYw5

José Mourinho:

“This is a job that everyone wants and I have it! This challenge does not make me nervous.”

https://t.co/bJvqPYHDSc

José Mourinho:

“I feel a bit frustrated we’re not in the Champions League. Man Utd is a Champions League club.”

https://t.co/TgXDE2fTtY

José Mourinho:

“49 is a lot. One lie repeated many times. Always a lie. If you want names, I give you the names.”

https://t.co/19DD3lGrzO

José Mourinho on why Ryan Giggs left Man Utd:

“The job Ryan wanted is the one I got. He wants to be a manager.”

https://t.co/OUNK1Koh4W

José Mourinho on Ryan Giggs:

“I will never stop him coming back. The club tried to offer him any important job they could. He’s been brave.”

José Mourinho on the advice Sir Alex Ferguson gave him:

“Bring the umbrella! And bring the good bottle of wine.”

https://t.co/MAZRLaOwBA

After using the word ‘I’ 91 times during his introductory press conference, according to DailyMail, you can understand why the media quickly gave Jose a new name.

But with all the huffing and puffing, will Mourinho turn Man. Utd’s fortunes around? Can he actually win all?

I think he can’t win all. What do you think?

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New Citizen in town: Pep Guardiola poses for his first official photos as Man. City coach

– The Pep Guardiola Press Conference
During the week, in the other half of Manchester, Pep “The Philosopher” Guardiola also gave his introductory press conference.

While reading through the excerpts, you will notice a sharp contrast between the words he chose to use and those used by Mourinho. A norm for two coaches known to never have been on the same side of a coin.

Pep on Mourinho:

“I think Jose said pretty well in his press conference that it’s not about me and him.”

Pep:

“The top coaches, and Jose is one, help me reach the next level. They made me better. Like Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund too.”

Pep Guardiola on Yaya Toure:

“I’m counting on them all including Yaya.”

PEP:

“I love to work with young players. Now I realise in a short time working with players from the second team, I’m really impressed.”

Pep Guardiola:

“Antonio Conte is a master tactician. It’s going to be very interesting competing against him.”

https://t.co/QZciP6BeQU

Pep Guardiola:

Manchester City can play ‘beautiful football’ in Premier League

: https://t.co/9ZSj0V9Urq

PEP:

“I will always be grateful to this club for giving me this opportunity to come to the Premier League. I’ll do my best to the last day.”

Pep:

“I think it’s great top managers are here in England. Big managers take me to another level — they push me to achieve things.”

Pep:

“My responsibility here is for the players. The other business is huge so I just focus on my players.”

What is Guardiola up to? I wish I knew. Of course I’d love to hear from you if you know what the Philosopher will do next.

-The Crazy Football Transfer Market’s Getting Crazier!
With the way most football clubs are going about their deals: signing players, selling some, and releasing others for free, there might not be too much to do on that dreaded dealine day.

Clubs like Newcastle made their fourth signing in the past week (English Championship clubs beware!); a signing from Atletico Madrid. Unless they’re aiming to beat Quique Flores’ record at Watford last season, they’ll be very well done with their purchases before August 31 (or is it September 1?)

Players like Pelle of Southampton discovered that the grass is greener on the “Chinese” side. Victor Valdes intends to “pick it up from ground level” again at Middlesborough and Ahmed Musa joined “a family” at Leicester.

But the major transfer news was about a player whose only movement was the movements he was making on the pitch for his country at the Euro 2016.

Paul Pogba is his name. And wherever that name appears now, a price-tag of £100m follows. And Manchester United is the football club making the offer.

And a whole lot has been said by a whole lot of people about this, one of them being Robbie Fowler…

“The former England striker has launched a scathing attack on the Manchester United target, claiming the £100m price-tag is way too much for the 23-year-old France’s Paul Pogba is ‘massively overrated’ and has been average at the European Championships.”

“He’s done OK against pretty limited opposition for France, but what does he bring? Energy and athleticism to midfield, but so does N’Golo Kante.”

– Fowler

Ouch!

But, the question remains: Whose fault is it that an amount that huge is being offered for a player of, erm, let’s just say, that calibre?

Manchester United? Mourinho? Pogba? Who’s to blame?

– Coaching Drama
Guardiola and Mourinho weren’t the only coaches in the news over the week.

England has put a number of coaches in the spotlight with their recent search for a new coach. Roy stepped down after the dismal Euro 2016 showing and now the Three Lions are in search of a new coach.

Jurgen Klinsmann has become one of the front-runners for the job. Can’t blame the FA. Seeing the job that was done by the German with the USMNT, Jurgen presents a fantastic opportunity English football has been waiting for since 1966: a coach that knows how to win. Or at least, a coach that knows how to turn a losing side into a side that will be feared.

An impressive C.V and the opportunity to help develop a predecesor who will take over when he’s gone means Klinsmann is an offer the FA can’t refuse. Seems England may not be needing a ‘Roll of the Allardyce’ afterall. Sorry SkySports.

Still on irresistible offers, Marcelo Bielsa resigned just two days after taking the coaching role at Lazio! This one will go down in coaching folklore.

Bielsa threw all the blame on Lazio but we both know who’s to blame right?

Moving on…

Worthy Mentions
During the past week, a certain Real Madrid player, Lucas Silva, aged 23, was forced to retire from football due to a serious heart problem. https://t.co/HRxK8zPvbL

It’s certainly a sad one for the lad who, going by his age, still had a couple of playing years ahead of him. Hopefully Real Madrid will be able to get him a player-scouting role at the club because… of course a coaching role would be bad for his heart!

This stat appeared somewhere online last week: Hugo Lloris had 33 passes v #GER, only Paul Pogba (35) had more on the French side. Playmaker.

I really dunno where to categorize that.

Kano Pillars, missed out on cash from the Musa-to-Leicester move. Why? No sell-on clauses were inserted in his contract when he moved to Europe.  Maybe our Nigerian clubs need more business orientation. Maybe that alone can make the NPFL a better league generally.

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Tight Battle For the Title: Wikki Tourists, Rangers and Rivers set to make this one a "photo-finish." Photo credit: LMCNPFL

Speaking of the NPFL, Rangers International are obviously giving Wikki Tourists a run for their money. Or should I say… a run for their title. And with both teams on 43 points, Rivers United is lurking around the corner like an hyena, with 41 points, waiting to take advantage of any slip ups.

Who said the NPFL isn’t fun?

Did I mention that Portugal, before the Euro 2016, were 20/1 to win the tournament? I guess it’s safe to say again, THEY PULLED A LEICESTER ON ME! I’m sure they did on you too right?

Don’t forget to share this beautiful read with your friends. I’m sure they’ll love it and will thank you.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

5 Talking Points From #FootballThisPastWeek

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When asked to describe football, my friend could only let out one word, “Magical,” after a deep sigh.

The sigh in itself was enough answer (I’m sure you’ll agree with me). Football is just unfathomable.

One time, it gives you joy. Another time it breaks your heart. At other times, it just abandons you in-between, leaving to wonder what exactly happened.

And over the past week, there were more-than-enough heart-breaking, pressure-relieving, shocking, amazing, heroic stories that happened in the football world.

One of them was,

– Manchester United’s #ZlatanTime
It was dubbed the world’s worst-kept secret at the time. Speculations were rife! Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contract with French giants PSG had expired. The big guy was a free man.

And every single club wanted him to join them. Who wouldn’t want the Swedish king on their team?

The Swede powerhouse was in no hurry to choose sides. He kept his cards close to his chest, using the Euro 2016 for cover-up.

Sweden got eliminated from the competition and the big man was followed everywhere by questions about his next move.

He answered the world via his Facebook page.

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And on Friday, it was Zlatan time in Manchester. Zlatan signed for Manchester United and rejoined ‘The Special One.’

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You can’t wait for the Manchester derby right? Me too!

But Zlatan and The Red Devils weren’t the only ones signing contracts in England. There were more…

– …Premier League Transfers
It’s buying and selling season across Europe. And the English Premier League clubs have been pulling their weights.

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The Philosopher's in town: Pep Guardiola arrives at Manchester City

Over the week, Manchester City unveiled Pep Guardiola to the fans. The Philospher who called City his “new home” joined from Bayern Munich and will be looking to infect the Citizens with his winning power. And also attract some big names.

Manchester City also acquired the services of Nolito who was the leading goalscorer for Celta Vigo last season.

Saido Mane became the 5th Southampton player to join Liverpool in 3 years. Dwight Gayle left Crystal Palace for Newcastle. The Batshuayi hijack was completed by the Blues. Arsenal signed a certain Japanse striker, Asano (surprise surprise).

Henrik Mkhitaryan, who was listed in the 2015/2016 Bundesliga Team of the Year, also signed for Man. Utd as was confirmed by Borussia Dortmund.

While players were moving in and out of clubs, the action continued in the…

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Winning Penalty: Hector's penalty seals win for Germany over Italy

– Euro 2016
“If in doubt, smash it down the middle.” – Commentator, on penalties, during the Germany vs Italy game.

The Quarter finals of the Euro 2016 witnessed a clash of the titans: Germany vs Italy (Poland, Wales and Iceland don’t exactly count as titans if you know what I mean…).

Both coaches played a 3-5-2 formation. A cagey game highlighted by Boateng’s ‘Air Jordan’ advert led to a 1-1 draw at the end of 120 minutes.

A penalty shoot out was needed to seperate both teams. And the penalties on display were amazing…ly funny. There were some really good ones though like De Sciglio’s and Kimmich’s.

But it was generally a contest of poor penalties. Comical penalties. Zaza of Italy literally danced for a couple of seconds before sending his penalty into space.Pelle’s spot-kick was a shot very well off-target.

Then there was Schweinsteiger’s blaze over the bar and Mesut Ozil’s penalty that sent Buffon the wrong way but hit the post. Muller missed too.

In the end, Germany won the game and finally broke the jinx of not beating the Italians in the last 8 meetings in major competitions (4 draws, 4 losses).

In the other games, Portugal, which are yet to win a game in normal time, knocked Poland out of the competition via penalties.

France ended Iceland’s fairytale run by scoring 5 past them. That was the first time in the competition a team scored five goals.

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Welsh Winnings Ways: Wales celebrate after winning against Belgium. Photo credits: Www.worldsoccer.com

Wales came from a goal down to beat Belgium 1-3. Robson-Kanu’s “Cryuff-esque goal” was one of the highlights of the game.

The teams are now down to four. Who will win the Euro 2016?

While the quest for European glory continues, there’s another quest on-going in the Nigerian Premier Football League.

– The NPFL: Who Will Wear The Crown?
The much-talked about contest between red-hot, second-placed Rangers International, and table toppers, Wikki Tourists, ended in a draw. The Lagos derby saw MFM fire 3 past Ikorodu United (who I think can’t avoid a relegation this season).

There was an away win as Plateau United got one over their counterparts, Abia Warriors (this one came as a surprise though). Unsurprisingly though, Enyimba bounced back from their South African travel (travail?) with a 2-0 win.

Worthy Mentions
Credit to the very commited Italian side that was able to finally score one past Germany in the competition. The flying block made by Florenzi in the game emphasized the kind of commitment Conte had drawn from his men.

But football isn’t all about defending. And I hope Conte now knows better as he heads for the Stamford Bridge.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

6 Talking Points From #FootballThisPastWeek

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There has been a lot of footballing action over the past week. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that there’s been enough to have been able to watch at least two everyday!

Phew! That’s a lot… for some.

But not for the football fans.

From the amazing goal scored by Shaqiri to the not-so-eventful Croatia – Portugal game and the Copa America final, football has given all a whole lot to talk about this past week.

And out of all the events that happened, I’ve selected a few to talk about (or write about?).

Screenshot_2016-06-27-16-14-26-1

-Rangers International Can Win the Nigerian Professional Football League
At least the Enugu side are playing like they want to. On Friday, Rangers entertained Warri Wolves, beat them 2-1 and OUTPLAYED them by all means!

Rangers were the FASTER, BETTER and STRONGER side of the evening as they showed off title-winning potentials: A great defense line, midfielders that can continuously string out defense-splitting passes to either find out wingers with amazing speed or pick out strikers who finish with aplomb.

May sound exaggerating but it’s not. Really.

Their flankers had some sort of terrifying speed that the Warri Wolves could not defend against. And everytime Rangers attacked, they seemed like they would score.

Maybe Enyimba should be looking over their shoulders (and ahead of them too as Rangers are now second on the NPFL table with the Aba Elephants currently sixth) as it seems another club is playing like they want the NPFL trophy so badly.

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Portgual’s Lucky Euro 2016 Run (or not?)
I’m not even sure if those are the right words to describe Portugal’s run so far in the Euro 2016. Might need a, erm, more luckier word than the word “lucky.”

From not winning any of their group games to qualifying out of their group as a “Best Loser”, you’d have thought Portugal had been lucky enough.

They were drawn against Croatia in the second round and the people’s verdict was simple and straight-forward: Portugal are out of Euro 2016. Some, not all the people.

But Mama Luck wasn’t done with C. Ronaldo and co just yet. Portugal which did not have any shot-on-target in the entire 90 minutes, managed to scored the winning goal with their second shot-on-target in the 117th minute.

Croatia, the favourites, were sent home. Portugal, the underdogs, move a step closer to glory.

Now let me ask: If that wasn’t luck, I’m wondering, what could it be?

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Nigeria and the CAF World Cup Qualifiers’ Group of Death
Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zambia. All of these countries in one group in a football competition.

If it was a normal football tournament where two countries could qualify, as a Nigerian, I wouldn’t have been too worried. The Euro 2016 scenario, where a “Best Loser” could still qualify, would have been even more calming.

But you can imagine how skeptical I was, as a Nigerian, when I remembered it was a World Cup Qualifier and ONLY one team could get the ticket to, this time, Russia 2018.

I started to think: How could a team without a coach beat the likes of Algeria after the Nigeria – Egypt AFCON qualifiers experience? Cameroon? Can the Super Eagles even beat Zambia?

The topic was raised on the blog’s forum (reach me here if you want to join in the discussion). All (myself included), except one (out of 40), concluded that Nigeria could not make it out of that group and qualify for Russia.

The debate shifted to the possible positions Nigeria could finish in. The conclusion? Majority seemed to think Nigeria would finish either second or third.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.

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Copa America Final
Even though the competition in the U.S.A was overwhelmed by the Euros, the Copa America caught it’s own fair share of the media’s eye.

While the competition was on, it was hard to ignore scorelines like Chile’s white-washing of Mexico 0-7 and Argentina’s 4-0 thrashing of the USMNT.

But the final was the mega one. The clash of the titans. Chile vs Argentina. Names were pitched against names, head-to-head and all. In the end, Chile beat Argentina 4-2 on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes.

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And there were two major talking points. No, make that three:
– Messi missed a penalty.
– The win meant Chile had now beaten Argentina to the Copa back-to-back.
– Alexis Sanchez was voted the tourney’s MVP.
– Messi cried.
– Messi retired.
– Messi, with Argentina, had successfully missed out on 3 trophies, in the last 3 summers, back-to-back-to-back.

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Just in case you’re wondering, I just multiplied Argentina’s back-to-back-to-back trophy losses with Chile’s back-to-back trophy wins. There you go. 6 talking points!

But Why Did Vardy Turn Arsenal Down?
It’s been one of those weird seasons where every Arsenal fan seem to know which player Arsene Wenger will buy. Usually, they’re always in the dark, not knowing which rabbit the Frenchman would pull out of his hat.

I don’t think much expected the Arsenal-Vardy links. But the news kept getting stronger and speculations were rife.

Some football fans were not sure what to think of the move. Leicester had just qualified for the UEFA Champions League. So why leave the Foxes for the Gunners?

Over the week, Vardy signed a new four-year contract with Leicester and “dashed” all hopes of an Arsenal move.

But, why did he turn down Arsenal? Or any other move for that matter? What will another season with Leicester prove?

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The Week of Retirements
When a Swedish king like Zlatan Ibrahimovic decides to retire from international football, it’s a sad day.

Like as if it couldn’t get any sadder, Leo Messi the Argentine Legend, decided to quit international football too! Two super stars leaving the international football scene!

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For Ibrahimovic, maybe the age factor was one that played a big role in causing him to hang the “International Boots.” But I’m still unsure why Messi decided to quit on Argentina at such a “young and tender” age of 29.

Three final losses in a row could be disheartening enough to make anyone give up. But even though Leo has “hung” his international boots, I’m sure the Argentina FA (AFA) will be scheming several ways to “unhang” those boots.

Worthy Mentions

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If you haven’t seen Shaqiri’s goal against Poland, you should check it out. One of the best of the Euro 2016 so far.

I can’t emphasize enough, the beautiful penalty-takers that Poland have. Against Switzerland, they kept rifling spotkicks into the top corner of the net!

Do you have any additions to my list? Something that caught your eye over the past week? Let me know! Share with me and others in the comments section below.

Also, don’t forget to share this great post with your friends. Sharing is caring! Share it with them and they’ll thank you. 😉

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Iheanacho and Diego Simeone and Enyimba and 7 Talking Points From Football This Week

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Better than them all!

Whoever gets compared to Leo Messi and C. Ronaldo automatically makes the news. You must be a big deal to be compared to the gods of football right?

What if, as a player, you’re described as better than these gods? I guessed right. That’s how Iheanacho made the news this week.

A whole lot of other things happened in the football world this week. Incomplete games, surprising results (toothless Real Madrid?), fireworks in Sweden and more.

I’ve tried to single out a handful of them – some that you know and some that you probably missed – and try to have a conversation with you about them. That’s okay right?

Good.

Let’s talk football then.

First on the list,

1. Tottenham Couldn’t Keep Up. Now, They Can’t Win the League Again.
For a while now, only two teams were in contention for the English Premier League title. But after Monday, two got reduced to one – technically speaking of course. Tottenham drew in the game – at home for that matter – against West Brom. One would have expected Spurs to run the Tony Pulis’ men over but they settled for a draw instead. With Leicester leading with 7 points and 3 games to go, Spurs blew their EPL title chances away on Monday. This might just be the closest they’ll ever get to winning the EPL title… or maybe not?

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Nigerian Football: From Amodu to Redknapp?

2. Harry Redknapp and the Super Eagles?
You know how people’ll tell you they weren’t expecting a thing to happen? Well, I wasn’t expecting this kind of “thing” to happen. It wasn’t even on the list. But like football, anything can happen in Nigerian Football. The former Portsmouth coach has been contacted as regards becoming the coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria. As much as this is supposed to be good news (no more Yusuf and especially Amodu), a question comes to mind:
– But of all people, why Harry? Is he the cheapest available option or what? Or was it because he coached Jordan for two games?
Whatever it is, my fingers are crossed.

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3. Continental Action Is Affecting Enyimba Badly!
When Enyimba won that match against Etoile du Sahel, it was a relief for Nigerians to see a Nigerian club finally qualify for the group stages of the African Champions League. Their fans must have been happy too. Happy that their team was performing in Africa. But back home, the story is totally different. Enyimba, current champions of the Nigerian Professional Football League, are currently 19th on the table after 13 rounds of games in the league. The Elephants have only been able to play 9 out of those 13, winning just 4. With more continental action, they may have to postpone more of their league games. With more games postponed, they may lose more ground in the league and will find it hard to retain their league title. So much for qualifying for Africa!

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4. UEFA & Europa Leagues: So far, so good…
UEFA has not disappointed by putting the very best against each other. Villarreal beat Liverpool by a goal and Sevilla played a 2 – 2 draw in Donestsk. Interesting results for the second legs. At this stage, only the best could have made it thus far. But Real Madrid (without their best) failed to score in England against Man. City. This makes the return leg one to anticipate. Will Real run riot at the Bernabeu? Will Man. City shock the world and qualify for the final? Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, have continued to keep a clean sheet at home in this season’s European competition. They kept Bayern Munich out on Wednesday when they won by a lone goal. With the return leg in Germany and with Pep desperate to win the Champions League for Bayern before leaving, will the Bavarians be able to break down Simeone’s tough defense system and win? Speaking of Simeone…

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5. Diego Simeone and his Iron Men.
After knocking Suarez and co. out of Europe (keeping a clean sheet in that second leg in the process), some stats began to surface about Atletico Madrid. And when they shut out a certain Bayern side, the stats went viral. Check some of them out:

5 – Last five CL home games of @atletienglish:
4-0 vs FC Astana
2-0 vs Galatasaray
0-0 vs PSV
2-0 vs Barcelona
1-0 vs FC Bayern.
Fortress.  – via Twitter

Atletico Madrid’s defensive record under Diego Simeone: 256 games 135
clean sheets Absolutely bonkers!  – via Twitter

Obviously, it’s safe to say some very dogged defending has brought A. Madrid thus far. They seem to be redefining football. Simeone seems to be onto something totally different from what Pep Guardiola discovered. It’s like Diego created the kryptonite for “Total Football’s” Superman. And it is a system working perfectly well. Just maybe attack is no longer the best form of defense. Just maybe.

6. Iheanacho Has the Best Strike Rate in Europe.
I totally disbelieved this at first (sure you did too). But surprisingly, I found stats good enough to prove this point. With 5 goals from just 7 shots on target, Kelechi is the most prolific striker in Europe. He averages a goal every 81.3 minutes he has played. Of all players that have scored 10 or more goals in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season, this is the best rate you will ever find. For a player that starts most games on the bench, this is remarkable. Well done son!

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7. Why Can’t Man. City Shift Their Game?
The English FA during the week declined Man. City their request to shift their game against Southampton scheduled for Sunday. This was because the game was already listed to be shown live on TV. Man. City coach complained about how this would affect his team’s preparations for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League clash with Real Madrid. He said, “I don’t understand why we cannot play one day before. Why can’t we at least be in the same situation as Real Madrid? We are representing Manchester City but we are also representing England in the Champions League. You don’t want to give advantage to the other team.” In other leagues, they’d even allow the team play on a Friday! But I guess things work differently in England. Little wonder they haven’t been able to do well in Europe in recent times.

Before I forget, feels good to know that Enyeama is showing them in France what Nigerians are capable of.

The legend has scored yet another accolade as the best goalkeeper in France. He also ranked amongst the best 10 goalkeepers in the world! Great stuff.

Please feel free to share your own talking points with me in the comments section. Would be happy to hear from you.

Cheers to a great weekend ahead!

Follow me on twitter @rotdav and let’s talk even more football.

The Comebacks & 5 Other Things I Learnt from #FootballThisPastWeek

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Let me ask you a question: “What is football to you?” Ever thought of it?

I bet you might end up saying, “Depends on which side I’m on.” Smart answer if you said that. If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. Football has been crazy – has gotten even crazier these days – enough to make people have “mixed feelings” with every game.

To the Bayern fan who saw his team make a comeback from 2 goals down to win the game against the Italians 4 – 2 and qualify for the quarterfinals of the Champions League, football could be overwhelming. On the flip side, to the Juventus fan, football could be painful. Football is that crazy!

And we had plenty of crazy this week.

First,

The Curse of the “Away Goal”
Valencia, after going down a goal to Ath. Bilbao in the first leg of the Europa League, managed to score the first two goals in the return leg at home. Superb! Then came the 74th minute and they conceded the “highly dreaded” away goal – after trying so hard to finish off the game earlier by trying to score more goals, all to no avail. The end result? Valencia 2, Athletic Bilbao 2. But here, some goals are more important than the others. Bilbao had scored one of those goals. Bilbao marched on. Valencia fell out… despite the game ending in a draw.

Bus-stop. Hearts broken.

Welcome to European Football.

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The Champions League and Europa League Draws
UEFA, as if to put the icing on the cake of what had already been a breath-taking week of European football, released the quarterfinal draws of the UCL and EL. It was more like dessert.

Atletico Madrid was picked as the side to face Barca. Who better to dare the MSN gang than Diego Simeone’s Daredevils?

PSG was paired with Man. City. Talk about the Clash of the Super Rich Titans

Then, Klopp was handed a return ticket to Dortmund and Athletic Bilbao got Sevilla.
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Talk about icing on the cake!

Saido the Mané

Saido the Mané


The Comebacks!
First it was Bayern Munich that came back from 2 goals down to win the game 4 – 2. Then Espanyol reaped the fruit of being persistent as they scored two against Athletic Bilbao after conceding the first goal of the game. Southampton was next.

The Saints needed only the 2nd half of their game against Liverpool to reply the Reds’ first two goals and then score the match winning goal while Villarreal forced Barcelona to a 2 – 2 draw after going down 0 – 2. Napoli also enjoyed a comeback win against Genoa as they won 3 – 1 after conceding first.

To the weekend and…

Gigi Buffon stole the show in the Italian Serie ‘A’. The legend became more of a bigger deal than he already was before. The Italian became the first goalkeeper in the history of the league to go 974 minutes without conceding a goal. That’s approximately 11 games. Titan! Legend and some more.

And then..

The EPL Top 10 is buzzing
Leicester has started dreaming and want to run away with the Premier League. Tottenham is hot on their heels. Arsenal is 11 steps behind, Man. City is playing like they prefer the Europa League to the Champions League while West Ham obviously wants some European football. Man. United just beat their cousins – big deal! Bragging rights too! Southampton climbed at the expense of Liverpool – the lion’s Mané was messed with – who have two games in hand, Chelsea remain unbeaten and I’m still totally unsure of Stoke City.

Worthy Mentions
Sounds like Mourinho is going to Old Trafford afterall. Heard a pre-contract has been agreed. Looking forward to the future Manchester derbies already!

I don’t know what it is but there’s something obviously wrong with Ikorodu United of Lagos. The players, in their game against Giwa FC, “hugged the ball” too much, made irrational decisions – and passes too – and looked sloppy. Little wonder they lost at home again. The new coach sure has a lot on his plate. He needs to promote this team to the NPFL because they seem to be stuck in the league they came from.

Imagine you’re a goalkeeper. Your team concedes two penalties in a game. You’re so good, you saved those two penalties but you and your team lost the game 3 – 0. Ironic right? Well, that was the situation in the game between Philadelphia Union and New England in the MLS.

The international break is in town. I hope Nigeria’s Super Eagles gets the better of Egypt. I hope I can write about the games too.

Cheers to a great week ahead my friend! ♡

Your comments are highly welcome. Little, next to nothing, delights a writer more. I’d like to hear from you. What do you think?

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Facebook (Rotdavdara) on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

What Next for Arsenal? Zlatan, Adebayor and more from #FootballThisPastWeek

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What a week!

It’s been a fantastic week of football and I’m sure yet again the beautiful game has not ceased to entertain – and surprise you. I don’t know about you but I definitely did not expect to see Edwin Van der Sar “come out” of retirement… to play for a fourth division side in Holland.

You didn’t know? That and more happened during the week.

There was the case of Ibrahimovic seeking revenge against Chelsea – you should have seen his pre-match and post-match interviews; he looked like revenge before, during and after the game! Then there was Benitez, the Saviour of the Toon Army. Then the Biters – or not? And a certain club that won the league… with 8 games to spare! Cue: I love Paris!

So, who else?

Oh yes!…

– Adebayor’s Refusal to join up with the Togolese National Team
Was more like a rejection if you ask me. Whoever the coach of the West African side is, he must have felt Adebayor was important to Togolese football, important enough to be called up to the squad.

But Adebayor had other plans.

So he called their bluff and rejected their call. Wondering why? Well, he claimed to want to focus all his energy on helping his clubside, Crystal Palace. How loving! The love for a club paying his wages. Can’t blame him though but I don’t think efery other Togolese will share my view. I mean I’d want his head on a plate if I was from that part of the world; for making a club more important than my country – even if the country is Togo. WTF bro?! You could have given a “smarter” reason for not coming; feign an injury or something!

But then again, that’s how smart Emmanuel Adebayor is.

Moving on

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– English Football is a Dying Specie… In European Football
The English Premiership is currently a beauty to behold (has always been). No other league in the world – I stand to be corrected – would have a team like Leicester top the table… and lead the pack with 5 points! Only the Premiership can serve that kind of dish. It’s that crazy there.

Step out of England and into European football, the chef stops cooking and the servers stop serving. The “crazy ones” bend to the will of both the big boys and, sadly enough, the small boys. They can’t seem to find a way to survive the onslaught on the big stage and get to the final – the Champions League or the Europa League – at least not since Chelsea.

Want proof?

PSG has knocked Chelsea out – welldone Zlatan. Arsenal has stepped out of the competition already – with a game to spare! Tottenham too! Liverpool and the Red Devils, at the end of the day, will remain just one. Man. City’s still in there… for the main time. English football in Europe?

Oh please!

– The Coach’s Twitter Account was HACKED… by his Wife!
Interesting right? I know! So Sam Collins, coach of Hartlepool United, an England League 2 side, was having an affair, despite being married. He probably thought his wife did not know – tough guy! – until he saw his own Twitter TimeLine. See:

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Drama: Hell hath no fury...

By the way, his wife, Claire, admitted to being the hacker. Story of the week if you ask me!

Worthy Mentions
Was nice to see Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah talk.about his club, one of the four privately-owned football clubs currently in the Nigerian Professional Football League. He spole about how his club has players from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali and even Brazil! Talk about a local club with international standards

Have I mentioned how weird it is to have Wolfsburg and Benfica in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals? The Europa League has invaded the Champions League!

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Another addition: Zlatan and his match ball after scoring 4 goals

Zlatan, after scoring a nine-minute hattrick and helping PSG win another league title – with 8 games to spare lol – wants to leave PSG, but will stay if the Eiffel Tower is replaced with a statue of him. Only Zlatan can say that right? #DareToBeZlatan

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Huge impression. Lasting impression? Photo credit: Goal

Now to the questions (make sure your answers are as honest and as crazy as possible):
– Benitez or not, is it now TOO LATE for Newcastle?
– What next for Arsenal? Now that the FA Cup is gone, is it finally time to win the Premier League title? Or let me, like @ireteeh, ask: Can Arsenal beat Barcelona?
Drop your crazily honest answers in the comments section. Looking forward to it!

P.S: If you haven’t seen Guedioura’s goal against Arsenal for Watford, you should see it. Will be a great way to start your week! – if you’re not a Gunner of course.

Cheers to a great week ahead!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a full time footballing polygamist that loves watching football and is in love with writing about the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and engage him on Facebook (Rotdavdara) on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

The Chinese Invasion, Sevilla Will Win the Europa League Again and more from #FootballThisPastWeek

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It’s been a football-full week. Every day had one game or the other, one name or the other that made headlines. Bologna surprisingly holding Juventus to a goalless draw, Valencia and Gary Neville tearing their opponents apart, Barcelona and Messi. It was the week Mikel – of all people – scored a Champions League goal for Chelsea and CR7 stormed out of the press conference room.

Dramatic right? But there’s more:

The Chinese Football Invasion!
No one knows exactly what’s going on – I’m at least sure I don’t – but China is the new go-to country for all things football. Forget England and Spain. Forget Man. City and PSG, the Chinese league and its clubs are splashing the cash effortlessly. It’s like they’re poaching European football. They’re literally buying any player in sight!

The weird part? The players are responding! They’re moving effortlessly. Some years back, it would have been weird for any player plying their trade in England or Germany to talk about finishing off in the Chinese league. It was either America’s MLS or Australia’s A-League (the Indian I league joined the fray too). All of a sudden, some players and their move to the home of the ‘Great Wall’ is now a “dream come true.” Well, money does play an important role in making dreams come true right?

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The UEFA Champions League is Back!
Good times are here again! Erm, I should have said instead, “Real football just started in Europe.” It’s the business-end of the UEFA Champions League. It’s “go big or go home” time. Here the boys are seperated from the men and a goal is counted as two goals.

Weird right? But awesome too! And the stand-out clash – and obviously the stand-out game – was PSG vs Chelsea. It was a show of total domination by the Parisiens as they won 2 – 1. Why not? They were playing at home and had a certain Di Maria and Veratti in their arsenal which they utilized effectively. Di Maria especially. And then talk about Thiago Silva and David Luiz snuffing life out of Diego Costa but letting Mikel score. I’m sure Luiź wasn’t expecting it. Before I forget, Cristiano Ronaldo must love to do his talking with his legs more than with his mouth. Why else do you storm out of a conference room and go on to score?

Sevilla WILL Win the Europa league, again!
Like the Champions League, the Europa League resumed action too. Yeah, that “very stressful” league. And guess who was back competiting for the trophy? You’re right. They played against Molde and in all honesty, it felt like a mis-match in every sense of the word. Okay. Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe that was me exaggerating. Then again, maybe not.

The ‘Moldeans’ – what else do you call Molde players? – seemed to move fast. They seemed to be up to the task until Sevilla started knocking them around and doing what they do best in this league: press, press and press. To be more elaborate, they dictated the pace at which their opponents chased the game. If they wanted the Molde players to run faster, they passed the ball around faster. If they wanted their opponents to catch their breaths, the boys from Spain kicked the ball around less faster. From start to finish, Unai Emery’s Sevilla had that competitive, always-fighting-for-the-ball-possession edge. By the 72nd minute, they were already 3 up. So much for being in your comfort zone. The Europa League is back and Sevilla will win it, again! No disrespect to the remaining 31 teams.

Worthy mentions
Can we give Barcelona the La Liga title now?

Cheers to a great weekend of football!!

About author:
Rotimi is a football lover whose love for the game translates into writing about the beautiful game, talking about the game and some times getting into ‘profitable’ arguments. You can engage him on Twitter @rotdav