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Amodu, Ezeugo Praise Federation Cup Standard

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Super Eagles coach, Shaibu Amodu and one time international mid fielder Emeka Ezeugo have praised the standard of the Federation Cup final match played on Sunday between Sharks of Port Harcourt and Enyimba FC of Aba, saying both teams displayed high level performance.

Enyimba won the match courtesy of a goal scored in the 40th minute by Musa Mustapha.

Amodu who observed the final as well as the preceding third place match between Lobi Markurdi and Bayelsa Utd from the technical area told newsmen that he was impressed by the enthusiasm and atmosphere around the final.

However, Amodu who was apparently at the stadium to shop for prospective materials for the national team, said that it is only when professional league matches are played on good turf and television friendly environment that local players could be truly adjudged to be ready for national team.

“It was a good match that was played at a high tempo by both sides, though the third place match was slightly more entertaining than the final that was to be expected because tactics would be a factor. However, I still want to insist that to assess the readiness of home grown players for international look in, we have to expose them to good pitches as we saw on Sunday as well as television friendly environment where they can display their natural potential,” Amodu said.

Ezeugo who played for the Eagles at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul as well as the FIFA World Cup in USA in 1994, also shared the same view about the quality of the final.

The hard marking midfielder observed the quality of the Teshim Balogun Stadium pitch allowed good and flowing soccer which was savoured by the spectators.

“The pitch was fantastic. If you watch that on TV, it will look like a premier league match. The two sides were also great with formidable tradition. They played a tight game – what else can we ask for”, he said. Though he agreed that fewer chances were created in the match he noted that the reason for such was in tune with the character of most cup finals where the emphasis is mostly on cautious approach.”

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Barcelona Open: Nadal’s Comeback Ended By World No 11

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Rafael Nadal’s injury comeback was ended by Alex de Minaur as the 12-time champion waved goodbye to the Barcelona Open for possibly the final time. Nadal, 37, returned to court on Tuesday after a three-month absence, making light work of 21-year-old Italian Flavio Cobolli in a straight-set win.
A day later, Nadal lost 7-5 6-1 to world number 11 De Minaur in round two.
Nadal, a 22-time major winner, has indicated he plans to retire in 2024 if he is unable to compete regularly.
The former world number one, now ranked 644th, has only played five matches since January 2023 because of hip and abdominal injuries.
Nadal is hoping to be fit enough to make a return to the French Open, where he won a record 14 men’s singles titles, next month.
Facing a player of De Minaur’s pedigree was always likely to be a considerable step up, and a truer test of his level than his comeback outing against 62nd-ranked Cobolli.
The 25-year-old Australian tried to test Nadal’s movement by using drop shots early in the match, an effective tactic which helped him move 2-0 in front and tee up another break point for 3-0.
But Nadal survived to hold and improved his level, producing a number of explosive cross-court backhand winners as he fought back to lead 4-3.
Another backhand winner, this time down the line, even drew a clap of the strings from De Minaur and teed up another break point for Nadal.
Taking the chance would have left Nadal serving for the set, but De Minaur recovered and won 19 of the next 24 points to win an opener lasting more than an hour.
After so long out, and with playing on consecutive days, Nadal’s endurance was always going to be tested, particularly against an opponent known for his athleticism.
De Minaur played smartly in a one-sided second set and broke Nadal’s serve three times, silencing the Barcelona crowd in the process, to secure an impressive victory.
Nadal left the court bearing his name – for what could be the final time – to a standing ovation and rapturous send-off.
Meanwhile, British men’s number two Jack Draper reached his 10th ATP Tour quarter-finals at the BMW Open in Munich.
Draper, 22, fought back after a rain delay to earn a 4-6 6-1 6-1 win over
German world number 179 Rudolf Molleker at the clay-court event.

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Leverkusen Chief Backs Alonso To Join Madrid

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Bayer Leverkusen chief executive Fernando Carro has claimed that Xabi Alonso will coach Real Madrid, while also lending fresh hope to Liverpool.
Alonso’s remarkable success at Leverkusen, who clinched their first-ever Bundesliga crown at the weekend, has positioned him as one of the most sought-after managers in Europe, with Liverpool and Bayern Munich previously leading the chase. Despite the interest, the 42-year-old Spaniard has affirmed his commitment to remain at the helm of the Bundesliga outfit for at least one more season.
However, Leverkusen’s leadership acknowledges the challenge of retaining Alonso over the long term, given his burgeoning reputation and the inevitable interest from top clubs across Europe. Among the potential destinations for Alonso, Real Madrid stands out prominently as Carro expressed his belief that Alonso could eventually return to the Spanish capital, where he enjoyed a distinguished playing career.
Speaking to Tidesports source, Carro also suggested Liverpool still have a chance of striking a deal for Alonso one day, as he stated: “I have no doubt that Xabi Alonso will coach Real Madrid at some point. What I am not clear about is when, but that he will end up at Real Madrid I have no doubt, as it is also possible that he trains Liverpool or Bayern.
There are a lot of clubs interested, that’s how it is, which doesn’t mean that in the future he can’t coach some of the clubs mentioned, especially his former teams as a player. But he feels comfortable here, otherwise he wouldn’t continue. We will maintain our ambition to play in the Champions League next year.”
Despite Real Madrid’s current managerial stability under Carlo Ancelotti, whose contract is due to run until 2026, reports suggest that the club’s hierarchy views Alonso as the ideal candidate to succeed Ancelotti when his tenure concludes. The backing of Real Madrid’s board, including club president Florentino Perez, further solidifies Alonso’s prospects of potentially assuming the managerial reins at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2026. Allegedly aware of the esteem in which the club’s leadership holds him, Alonso has opted to remain at Leverkusen, biding his time for a potential return to Real Madrid.
Alonso is focused on preparing Leverkusen for the second leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final against West Ham at London Stadium on April 18, following their 2-0 victory in the first leg at BayArena.

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Barca Blame Referee, Panic For Loss To PSG

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Barcelona had a two-goal aggregate lead and were seemingly in control of their UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match against Paris St- Germain in Spain until it all turned to chaos.
A disaster performance from the referee, panic from Barcelona’s players and an unnecessary expulsion, according to Barca sources, were all blamed on a dramatic Tuesday evening at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys as PSG ran out 4-1 winners.
Barcelona centre-back Ronald Araujo’s sending off turned the tide in their Champions League quarter-final as PSG came from 3-2 down in the first leg to win the tie 6-4 on aggregate.
A double from Kylian Mbappe, a long-range strike from Vitinha and an Ousmane Dembele goal against his former club sent Barcelona spiralling out of control – and out of the competition.
As Barcelona turned in a performance riddled with mistakes, referee Istvan Kovacs had a busy evening. The Romanian showed three red cards to the hosts – manager Xavi’s frustrations getting the better of him, before a member of his coaching staff was dismissed for dissent. That only compounded the damage done by Araujo’s red-card inducing challenge on Bradley Barcola early in the first half.
“The referee was really bad. I told him his performance was a disaster. I don’t like to talk about referees, but it had a clear impact in the season and it has to be said,” Xavi told news men.
“We are very upset and angry because the red card was the decisive factor in the match. With 11, we were in a good position, playing well and in command.
“It’s too much to flash a red card in a game like this. There was another game after that… It is a pity that the work of the season was ruined by an unnecessary expulsion.”
Araujo’s early exit allowed PSG to build momentum. The goals flowed; Barcelona collapsed. Joao Cancelo needlessly brought down Dembele in the box, allowing Mbappe to score the first of his two goals from the penalty spot.
“You can’t make mistakes in the Champions League,” former Barcelona striker Thierry Henry said after the game.
“If you make mistakes, you pay the price straight away and that’s why it is so hard to win that competition because you cannot make one mistake.”
Having left Paris with a 3-2 victory, Barcelona got off to the perfect start in their second leg when Raphinha deflected in teenager Lamine Yamal’s cross.
But Barcelona’s lead did not last long and PSG took control in the second half as the cards came from Kovacs.

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