Their sides may both have failed to win in the process of conceding four goals on the road, but Hakim Ziyech and Victor Osimhen’s stocks continued to rise after their Group H performances last Tuesday.
For Ajax Amsterdam, Ziyech was given a relatively rare opportunity to play centrally against Chelsea. After assisting Donny van de Beek’s goal in a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur last season, the Morocco star again delivered on the big stage with plenty of wealthy Premier League clubs watching.
In the first half, Ziyech’s sublime in-swinging cross from the right was turned home by Quincy Promes. Having seen his deflected shot finished from an offside position against Chelsea in Amsterdam two weeks ago, the pair had combined for a lovely goal in London.
Whilst Opta did not give Ziyech an official assist for Ajax’s third goal, it was undoubtedly again down to his superb delivery. Swinging in a freekick from the right touchline, the ball hit the post and deflected in off Kepa Arrizabalaga’s head.
In the second half, he provided van de Beek with a second goal in the English capital, rifling a pass into his teammate, who controlled instantly and fired in the bottom corner.
Playing centrally is nothing new to Ziyech, but he is not often untrusted with that role in these big Champions League ties. Most often, he is used on the right flank with some freedom to move inside.
For Premier League clubs scouting him, they will no doubt have pored over dozens of his games in league and continental action, and such is his consistent excellence in the Eredivisie, there is now little to learn from watching him rack up the goal contributions in an obviously inferior league.
Therefore, it’s only natural that most importance will be placed on his Champions League displays. Seeing him as a creative operator, but ultimately still from a wide role has seemingly not convinced any suitors of the highest calibre.
Bayern Munich seemed to sound out his agent for a move as something of Plan C after moves for Callum Hudson-Odoi and Leroy Sane fell through – owing partly to ill-timed injuries – but he could not be much more different than those wide players.
Ziyech is more in the mould of Mesut Ozil, James Rodriguez or Juan Mata, all previously pure, left-footed number tens who have had to play on the sides to be accommodated at times, but were ultimately pushed to the side of their clubs’ plans for the biggest matches.
Not all of the big clubs want genuine wingers, but many do at least want a vertical player who can make runs in-behind defence exactly like Quincy Promes does for Ajax.
If Ziyech is to receive genuine transfer interest from a club which he doesn’t consider to be a step-down, maybe he needs to play centrally again and look to reinvent himself as more of a Bernardo Silva or Angel Di Maria circa 2014. A player who could be awkwardly identified as a half-space number eight or ten.
He still has some way to go to change the perception of himself as a luxury player, though.
It is telling that when Ajax went down to nine men at Stamford Bridge, all of Promes, van de Beek and Dusan Tadic remained on the pitch (despite the latter’s ineffectual display thoughout), but Ziyech was immediately withdrawn.
PSG Boss Reacts To FIFA Corruption Charges
Paris Saint-Germain president and UEFA executive committee member, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, has been charged by the office of the Swiss attorney general for financial crimes in connection with the award of media rights to various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments.
Former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, has been charged with accepting bribes, several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement and falsification of documents in the same case.
Al-Khelaifi and another individual were charged with inciting Valcke to commit the aggravated criminal mismanagement. But the PSG boss no longer faces an accusation of bribery.
The PSG president is a major executive at beIN Media group, a broadcast company that is the biggest buyer of UEFA’s television rights.
He also sits on the UEFA executive committee, the organisation’s supreme executive body representing European clubs.
Breaking: The Swiss authorities criminally charge former @FIFAcom Secretary-General Jerome Valcke and @PSG_English boss/ @UEFA exco member Nasser Al-Khelaifi. The statement from the authorities is below… pic.twitter.com/nNxM8TpE51
Responding to the charge yesterday, Al-Khelaifi hit out at leaks, misinformation, a media agenda and materials that had been faked, fabricated, or illegally sourced.
“After an exhaustive three-year investigation, where I have fully and openly cooperated with the Public Prosecutor in Switzerland, I am pleased that all charge of bribery in connection with the 2026 and 2030 World Cups have been dropped,” his statement read.
“As I have said vehemently and repeatedly for three years, the charges have not – and have never had – any basis whatsoever, either in fact or law. It is now – finally – indisputable fact that the 2026 and 2030 agreements were negotiated at arms-lengths [sic] and without any improper influence in any form.
“After the most forensic public, private, lawful and unlawful scrutiny of all my dealings, I have been cleared of all suspicions of bribery and the case has been dismissed definitively and conclusively. While a secondary technical charge remains outstanding, I have every expectation that this will be proven completely groundless and without any substance whatsoever, in the same way as the primary case.
“While I have cooperated with all authorities during the legal process, the three year investigation has been characterized by constant leaks, misinformation and a seemingly relentless agenda to smear my reputation in the media – completely irrespective of the facts and the notion of due process.
“For that reason, I have requested the relevant Swiss authorities to open a criminal enquiry into the conduct of the investigation. I also reserve the right to take action against certain media who for three years have repeatedly published factually-unsupported and highly damaging articles, often based on illegally-sourced and – quite remarkably in some cases – faked and fabricated materials, to satisfy their narrative of my supposed guilt.”
Enyimba Thrashes Kwara United, Goes Fifth
Enyimba thrashed Kwara United 2-0 in a rescheduled Match Day 13 game at the Enyimba Stadium in Aba on Wednesday.
The league champions went into the game at the back of their 4-1 win over their neighbours Abia Warriors in Okigwe on Monday.
Enyimba head coach, Fatai Osho, made just one change to his starting lineup that day; replacing Dare Olatunji with a more offensive midfielder Dayo Ojo, while Kwara United coach Abdullahi Biffo made wholesale changes to his side after failing to beat Rivers United at home last Sunday.
Kwara United settled quickly into the game and almost took the lead in the fifth minute after Christopher Nwaeze’s long-range strike beat Enyimba goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai but came off the woodwork.
Enyimba launched the attack of their own and were rewarded almost immediately after Cyril Olisema set up Stanley Dimgba, who hit a one-time beyond Kwara United goalkeeper Iwu, for his sixth league goal of the season.
Enyimba had the final chance of the half through Dimgba but Iwu denied him at his near post to bring the competitive half to an end.
Chances were few and far between in the second half although the visitors continued to dominate only in the midfield areas. When they managed to create a chance just before the hour mark, former Enyimba star Kamal Sikiru fired his effort wide.
Enyimba doubled their lead and killed any hope of Kwara united picking a point, when Victor Mbaoma latched onto Farouk Mohammed’s ball over the top, lobed the ball over a defender before hammering home a half-volley with just five minutes left on the clock.
Mbaoma has now scored 13 goals for the people’s elephants in all competitions, with 9 goals in the league and four others CAF confederations cup.
Enyimba is now up to the fifth position on the log and will hope to extend their winning streak when they visit Nasarawa United in Lafia on Sunday before turning attention to the CAF confederation.
Rangers Narrowly Edged Kano Pillars
Rangers bounced back from their disappointing home loss to Akwa United on Sunday to beat Kano Pillars 1-0 in a rescheduled game at the Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium on Wednesday.
The match started with great intensity with both not ready to give anything away before the first chance of the game fell to Pillars in the 7th minute, but David Ebuka’s shot went wide.
Rangers had their first opportunity almost immediately as Israel Abia was clear on goal but his effort was saved by Joshua Enaholo of Pillars.
The first half ended goallessly but the second forty-five minutes produced more chances as both sides opened up play, but the finishing was still lacking.
However, Abia thought he had put Rangers in front in the 61st minute after he put the ball into the back of the net but the flag was up for an offside.
Japhet Opubo made a wonderful save in the 65th minute to deny Kano Pillars of the opening goal after Rabiu Ali curling strike from outside the area was sailing into the net.
Pillars from then all were in control of the match and created clear cut chances but it was Rangers who scored against the run of play in the 75th minute.
Ifeanyi George went on a solo run dazzling past three players before setting up Chinonso Eziekwe, who made no mistake in burying the ball into the net.
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