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Chelsea win 2021 Champions League title

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Chelsea won the Champions League for the second time as a Kai Havertz goal secured a tense 1-0 victory over Manchester City in Saturday’s final in Porto, shattering Pep Guardiola’s dream of lifting the trophy for the third time, a decade on from his last triumph.

Havertz rounded Ederson to score three minutes before half-time at the Estadio do Dragao and the Chelsea players ran to the far end of the pitch to celebrate with the German.

Coach Thomas Tuchel, full of energy on the touchline just like his opposite number, punched the air in celebration, and later jumped with joy on the pitch after Chelsea held on for victory in the second half as City lost distraught skipper Kevin De Bruyne to injury.

The London club may have finished fourth in the Premier League, a huge 19 points behind the champions City, but this, remarkably, was their third win over Guardiola’s side in six weeks.

They shattered City’s hopes of a domestic treble when they triumphed in the FA Cup semi-finals in April and then delayed their title celebrations with victory in Manchester.

Now, in a final watched by a limited crowd of just over 14,000 fans who created a raucous atmosphere, they have denied City the first Champions League crown they and Guardiola so crave.

Abramovich’s second European Cup

City have had to wait 13 years since being taken over by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour just to get to the Champions League final.

They are now the seventh consecutive team to lose in their first appearance at this stage. The same misfortune befell Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain last year as well as Tottenham Hotspur when they were beaten by Liverpool in the last all-English final in 2019.

Chelsea also lost when they first got to the final, succumbing on penalties against Manchester United in Moscow in 2008.

They overcame the final hurdle by beating Bayern Munich, also in a shoot-out, in 2012 and now they have their second European Cup to move level with Juventus, Benfica and Porto as well as another English side, Nottingham Forest.

Their transformation into one of Europe’s super clubs has been down to the riches of Roman Abramovich, their Russian oligarch owner who was in attendance at the game in Portugal.

Chelsea have been transformed since the appointment as coach in January of Tuchel, but City were still the favourites off the back of their third Premier League title triumph in four seasons.

Feeding off the energy of the crowd in a stadium that Portuguese authorities had allowed to be filled to a third of its capacity — all fans required negative Covid-19 tests to gain entry — both teams played with a level of intensity rarely seen in the last year of football in empty grounds.

Havertz’s marquee moment

City pressed high but struggled to trouble Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal, while at the other end Timo Werner should have done better than shoot straight at Ederson in the 14th minute.

Chelsea then suffered an injury blow as an emotional Thiago Silva was forced off hurt, Andreas Christensen taking the Brazilian’s place in central defence.

Yet it was they who opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, Mason Mount’s ball splitting the City defence with John Stones out of position, allowing Havertz — their marquee 71 million-pound ($100m) signing last summer — to go around the lunging Ederson and convert into an empty net.

City now needed to break down a Chelsea defence that has been exceptional since Tuchel came in.

But they lost De Bruyne just before the hour mark, the brilliant Belgian taken out in a collision with Antonio Ruediger that appeared to leave him concussed.

He came off in tears, and Guardiola instead turned to Sergio Aguero for the latter stages, but there was to be no glorious send-off as a City player for the Argentine, even if a Riyad Mahrez shot sailed just over in the sixth minute of injury time.

There was also no third European Cup for Guardiola, who remains one adrift of the record for the coaches with most wins in the competition, held jointly by Bob Paisley, Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane.

AFP

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Nigeria Edge Cape Verde in Qatar World Cup Qualifier

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The Super Eagles continued their 100 per cent record against Cape Verde in their second match of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

The Nigerian team won the game 2-1 after staging a comeback.

A 75th-minute own goal by Cape Verde earned Nigeria a 2-1 win in their qualifying clash in Mindelo on Tuesday, a result that stabilized the Super Eagles’ leadership of the pool as they await a home-and-away fixture against Central African Republic next month.

Dylan dos Santos steered the home team in front after 19 minutes of an intense back-and-forth by both sides, when he slipped behind the Eagles’ rearguard and slammed a rocket of a shot past goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

The three-time African champions refused to be brow-beaten, and launched series of attacks, with Chidera Ejuke forcing the opposing goalkeeper to an acrobatic save in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, an alert Victor Osimhen would pull Nigeria level, stabbing home from close range after the goalkeeper punched following a defensive blunder.

In the 41st minute, the lively Ejuke again rattled the Cape Verde number one, before Osimhen came close to adding another one from a corner with a minute to recess.

Kelechi Iheanacho and six other UK-based players were absent when the Super Eagles played the Blue Sharks in Mindelo.

The players were forced out from the tie after the UK government insisted individuals who travel to “red zones” — which Cape Verde falls into — must quarantine for 10 days upon return.

Aside from the seven UK-based players, Serie A defender, Ola Aina, also did not travel with the squad to Mindelo, and returned to Italy instead.

In the second half, Ahmed Musa latched onto a centre by Osimhen as the Eagles pushed forward, but his tame shot was easily collected. Substitute Onyekuru was also guilty of putting too low a purchase on his shot in the 73rd minute as Nigeria streamed to the opposition area.

Two minutes later, in a spectacular backpass to his goalkeeper, Kenny Santos scored an own goal as the ball floated above the goaltender and landed in the net. The goal put Nigeria in front and eventually gave the Super Eagles the three points on the night.

Victory took the Eagles to maximum six points from two matches, three points ahead of second –placed Liberia, ahead of the Day 3 and 4 games scheduled for October.

 

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WC Qualifier: Nigeria to face Cape Verde without UK-based Stars

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The Super Eagles will tackle the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde this afternoon in Match Day 2 of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier without the services of UK-based players.

The Super Eagles contingent landed on the island of Mindelo yesterday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special Air Peace jet.

There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players, who returned to their base as a result of UK authorities COVID-19 protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to Britain after visiting a country with COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one.

Today’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capacity Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigerian squad.

The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong, and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal, and Spain–based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks this evening.

The departures of two-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to enlist entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.

Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK.

Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia–based Chidera Ejuke, Italy–based former junior international Kingsley Michael, and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are available.

Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar if he takes any part in today’s encounter.

Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum of three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star is victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.

A win will also brighten the path of the three–time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.

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Conte breaks silence, says pre-deal with Arsenal not true

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Antonio Conte’s agent, Federico Pastorello has revealed that the coach has not agreed to a pre-deal with Arsenal FC.

There have been speculations that Conte is in line to replace Mikel Arteta at the Emirates after the later failed to win a single game this season in the Premier League.

The Gunners have also not recorded any goal in their defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Although Conte is out of work since leaving Inter Milan, he is not close to returning to the dugout.

Transfer specialist, Fabrizio Romano, tweeted: “There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre-agreement with any club and he’s free.

“Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre agreement with any club and he’s free.

Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 5, 2021

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