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Go Green! Osimhen Grabs Hat-Trick As Dream Team Crush Libya 4-0 To Revive Olympic Qualification Dreams

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Former Golden Eaglets star, Victor Osimhen, grabbed a hat-trick on Monday as Nigeria ‘s under-23 male national football team defeated their Libyan counterparts 4-0 on Monday in Asaba, to reach the third qualifying round of the 2020 Olympic Games football tournament.

The match, which was played at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, was also the second leg of a qualification round for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The Nigerian side had lost 0-2 in the first leg played on Wednesday in Tunisia, Libya’s home ground for now, and have now advanced to the qualifiers’ next round 4-2 aggregate.

The second leg game, which was watched by a handful of spectators, saw the Libyan team putting up a defensive play right from the first blast of the whistle.

However, the Nigerian team took total control of the midfield, as they mounted sustained attacks on the Libyan defence.

The Nigerian team’s efforts finally paid off in the 33rd minute of play, when Osimhen grabbed his first goal of the game from a rebound after a free-kick hit the upright.

On resumption of the second half, the Nigerian team went on the offensive in their search for more goals, forcing the Libyan defence to commit blunders.

Osimhen, on loan to Charleroi from Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg, again rose to the occasion, as he slotted in the second goal of the game in the 64th minute after the Libyan goalkeeper, Aymar Altihar, mistakenly parried a cross onto his path.

He later grabbed his hat-trick in the 75th minute following a goalmouth scrabble, after the Libyan defence failed to clear a Nigeria cross inside the penalty box.

Before the ovation which trailed the goal could die down, Nigeria’s Chidozie Okereke grabbed the fourth goal on the dot of 90 minutes for Nigeria.

The Nigerian squad finished the match four million naira ($11,100) richer as senior team captain Ahmed Musa promised a million naira for every goal his compatriots scored.

Nigeria are the most successful African country in Olympics football, winning the 1996 Atlanta tournament and finishing runners-up to Argentina in Beijing 12 years later.

At the post-match media conference, Nigeria’s coach Imama Amapakabo expressed joy and satisfaction with the win.

He said the Nigerian team played according to the game plan and deserved the victory.

“After the first leg in Tunisia which we lost, we learnt a lot because we saw their pattern of play.

“So, we came home and decided to work on how to break down their style of play.

“Today, we played according to our game plan, to get an early goal, and then follow it up with as many goals as possible,” he said.

Also speaking, Nigeria’s team captain, Azubuike Okechukwu, said the victory was well deserved.

“We came down here to win and we have achieved that. I must say we played our game, we were not under pressure.

“More so, the fans here today are so marvellous. They gave us so much support and we really appreciate it,” Okechukwu said.

In Abidjan, the Ivory Coast hammered Niger 6-1 to equal the biggest winning margin set by Kenya in a 2020 qualifier in Africa, AFP reported.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg, the Ivorians scored three goals in each half at home with Italy-based Willy Braciano bagging a brace.

Ivory Coast are likely to face tougher opposition in the third round when they come up against Guinea, who surprisingly eliminated Senegal.

A further seven qualifiers are scheduled for Tuesday with Ghana and South Africa poised to advance after building impressive first leg leads.

Olympics qualifiers are restricted to under-23 footballers with three over-age stars permitted at the finals. (NAN)

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UEFA Approves Fans For Bayern, Sevilla Super Cup Clash

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Europe’s football governing body UEFA has confirmed fans will be allowed for next month’s Super Cup clash between Bayern Munich and Sevilla.

It however said only 30 percent of fans will watch the match live at Puskas Stadium in Budapest.

The stadium in the capital of Hungary holds 67,215 spectators at full capacity, which means that 20,164 people will be allowed to attend the clash.

The annual fixture pits the winners of the Champions League against the victors of the Europa League – which Sevilla won for a record sixth time earlier this month by defeating Inter in the showpiece.

This match will be the Andalusian club’s sixth Super Cup of which they have won just once – in 2006, when they defeated Barcelona 3-0 in the showpiece – but have lost on four occasions: 2007, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Bayern Munich was crowned winners of the Champions League by defeating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in Sunday’s final.




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BREAKING: Mikel Obi Returns To England, Joins Stoke City

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Former Super Eagles skipper John Obi Mikel has joined Championship side Stoke City.

The club confirmed he is the fourth signing of the summer.

“The Nigerian international midfielder joins Morgan Fox, James Chester and Steven Fletcher in checking in at the bet365 Stadium ahead of the 2020/21 Championship season,” a statement by the club’s website stated.

Mikel, who won a host of domestic and European honours during a glittering 11-year stay at Chelsea, returns to English football after a spell in the Turkish Super Lig with Trabzonspor.

Manager Michael O’Neill told the club’s website: “We’re delighted to bring John to the Club. His playing career speaks for itself and underlines his caliber as a player.

“I was really impressed with him when we met for the first time and he outlined what he wants from the next phase of his career.

“We spent four hours talking and he made it clear he wants to get back into the Premier League and finish his career there and hopefully he can do that with Stoke City.”

Mikel made more than 370 appearances for Chelsea, helping them to land the Premier League title twice, as well as three FA Cups, the Champions League, and Europa League.

After a spell in China, he played for Middlesbrough after joining them on a short-term deal in January 2019, making 19 appearances. He won 91 caps before retiring from international football following last year’s African Cup of Nations.

Mikel described joining Stoke as “a new chapter”.




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No Masks, No Spit! New Rules For Matches As EPL Resumes On Wednesday

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Players and coaching staff will not be required to wear masks at stadiums when the Premier League restarts.

Players will be encouraged not to spit or clear their noses and not to break social distancing during goal celebrations.

There will be no ball boys or girls – a system of sterilized replacement balls will be used.

Aston Villa v Sheffield United will be the first game when the league returns on 17 June.

In Germany’s Bundesliga players and staff have been required to wear masks at all times, except for during play.

In the Premier League, they will not have to wear masks at all, even in the changing room or on the bench, although the fourth official as well as doctors and physios will have to.

On Thursday the Premier League announced there will be a minute’s silence to remember those who have died with coronavirus before the first matches.

Heart-shaped badges in tribute to frontline NHS staff will also be worn on kits.

Clubs agreed to a range of medical and operational protocols for the restart of the season at a meeting on Thursday.

There will be strict limits on those allowed into stadiums on matchdays and grounds will be split into zones, including the tunnel and pitchside.

In total only 300 people will be in each stadium, with no more than 110 in the ‘red zone’ including players, club staff, and officials.

There will be the deep cleaning of corner flags, goalposts, substitution boards, and match balls before and after each fixture.

Some extra disinfection, such as of the substitution board after it is used, is likely to take place during matches and at half-time, while other work will be carried out during drinks breaks if they are permitted by the league.

The medical protocols stipulate how squads and coaching staff must travel to and from games, observing social distancing.

Clubs will be encouraged to fly on long away trips to limit the use of hotels, and every player and coach will be temperature checked before they arrive at the stadium.

Players will have to hand sanitize when they enter and leave the field of play.

Meanwhile, players are working with the Premier League on a Black Lives Matter tribute but details are yet to be finalized.

Options discussed by players this week included taking a knee, a Black Lives Matter logo on shirts, and players’ names being replaced by the phrase Black Lives Matter.

The Premier League has been suspended since 13 March because of the pandemic.

The fixture schedule for the first three rounds was confirmed on Friday, with 33 of the remaining 92 matches to be shown on free-to-air platforms.

The league will resume on Wednesday when Aston Villa host Sheffield United at 18:00 BST, with Manchester City v Arsenal at 20:15.

Teams returned to contact training at the end of May. In the latest round of testing at Premier League clubs, one person tested positive for COVID-19.




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