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EPL: Chelsea Subdues Man Utd, Leads Race For Title

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Joe Cole and Didier Drogba were on target as Chelsea took the lead in the race for the Premier League title after a 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Cole gave the visitors the lead with a sensational 20th minute flick from close range during a first half entirely dominated by Chelsea before Drogba, who started the match on the bench, swooped to net a contentious second with 11 minutes remaining.

A scrambled Federico Macheda goal two minutes later gave United hope of nicking a point after a much improved second half performance, but it proved too little too late as Chelsea completed the league double over the champions – and went top of the table.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side now hold a two-point advantage over second-placed United with five games remaining this season. Third-placed Arsenal closed the gap on United to a single point with a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Wolves.

Chelsea’s last outing came seven days ago in their 7-1 drubbing of Aston Villa, while United were in Champions League action in Germany on Tuesday – and those extra three days of rest were initially evident as Chelsea, by far the fresher side, dominated proceedings while United chased their tails for much of the first half.

The Blues, without Drogba who was not risked from the start, deservedly took the lead on 20 minutes through Cole’s wonderful flick after Florent Malouda had outmuscled Darren Fletcher to get to the by-line and deliver a cross to the near post.

The goal rocked United, whose passing was uncharacteristically wayward and who, without the injured Wayne Rooney, lacked the energy to unsettle their opponents. Chelsea meanwhile were comfortable in possession, enjoying plenty of it as the sting was taken out of the Old Trafford crowd.

But United could, possibly should, have been given a lifeline back into the game on 26 minutes when Park Ji-sung was tripped in the box by Yuri Zhirkov’s outstretched leg. Even though there was contact, the Korean’s tumble to the floor was inelegant and failed to convince referee Mike Dean who waved play on.

The official from the Wirral, who had previously given 16 spot kicks in 24 Premier League matches this season, was again at the centre of attention four minutes later when he turned away more appeals for a penalty, this time from Chelsea. Gary Neville’s barge into Nicolas Anelka at the other end was clumsy at best but Dean’s refusal to award a foul was at least consistent with his earlier decision.

United slowly came back into the game as the first half wore on, culminating with a decent chance for Dimitar Berbatov to level the scores on 44 minutes, but the Bulgarian striker checked back inside as the ball fell kindly for him in the Chelsea box, allowing Frank Lampard to make a crucial challenge.

United built on that slight encouragement after the break, no doubt further inspired by an Alex Ferguson rollicking in the dressing room, giving Chelsea far less time on the ball and finally indicating that they were up for the fight.

That said, it was Chelsea who spurned a glorious opportunity to double their advantage soon after the restart, Paulo Ferreira finding himself in unfamiliar territory and one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar after a neat through pass by Cole. But the Portuguese full-back’s stabbed effort rolled agonisingly wide of the post and inches beyond the outstretched boot of the late-arriving Anelka.

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NDDC U-17 Peace Cup To Resume In Uyo

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The long awaited finale of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) U-17 Peace Cup would expectedly resume next week as two qualified teams from the nine states converge in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital.
Technical Director of the tournament  Etim Esin in a statement on behalf  of the Local Organising Committee Chairman John Ekpeyong and Secretary Ada Gwegwe yesterday said the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Senator Godswill Akpabio, CON, will declare the tournament open.
It added that the Special Assistant to the President Muhammad Buhari, on Sports Development, Coach Daniel Amokachi, NFF Technical Director Coach Augustine Eguavoen along with football legend Taribo West and other notable Niger Delta-based and foreign scouts will be on ground.
The LOC appreciated the Sole Administrator of the NDDC, Effiong Akwa, for his support towards the conclusion of the tournament, adding that it is better late than never, as the competition will still be among his numerous legacies.
According to the statement, the arrival date for participating teams is 11th of December, while screening of teams and official kick off, will take place the following day.
The statement further called on the Coordinators of the states not to forget the rules of engagement, especially on the age bracket of the players, as the screening will be strict, for the aim of the competition to be achieved.

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FIBA World Cup: Kida Lauds D’Tigers’ Strong Qualifiers Start

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Top basketball administrator and immediate past Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) president, Engr Musa Kida, has congratulated the D’Tigers for starting their 2022 FIBA World Cup on a strong note after picking two victories in three matches.
With five points from a possible six and a superior point difference, the team sits comfortably atop group A ahead of the next round of games coming up by the 27th of June, 2022.
Kida described the team’s performance as inspiring despite peculiar circumstances surrounding the federation’s election as well as FIBA’s stance over Nigeria’s participation at the qualifiers.
“It is really nice to start such important qualifiers on a winning note which is very good for our chances of qualifying for the World Cup. We had to put our administrative differences aside for the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians.”
“We feel elated and justified that our decision to give FIBA the go ahead to register the team which enabled them participate paid off in the long run as we join hands with all stakeholders to continue growing the game in Nigeria”.
16 teams are vying for the available five spots at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup with Nigeria grouped alongside Mali, Cape Verde and Uganda.
“The top three teams from each group will advance to the Second Round of the African Qualifiers and will join three other teams to create two six-team groups with results from the preliminary rounds carried over,” Musa added.

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AWCON Qualifiers: Ebi Targets Revenge Against Ivory Coast

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Super Falcons defender, Onome Ebi, says the team will go all out for revenge when they clash against Ivory Coast in their final 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations qualifiers next year.
The qualifying game which will be played on a home and away basis is scheduled for February 13 and 17 with the winners qualifying for the AWCON in Morocco.
The Falcons who will be hoping to defend the title they won at the 2018 in Ghana are eyeing their 10th trophy Morocco but to qualify for the event, they’ll have to go past the Ivorians who knocked them out of contention for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Ebi, who is Nigeria’s current longest-serving player says her aim is to avenge the loss that saw them miss out on the 2020 Olympics at the hands of the Ivorians.
“I can tell you that we still nurse the pain of missing out of the Tokyo Olympics as a result of the loss to Cote d’Ivoire in the qualifying series,” Ebi said.
“This time, we will repay them in their own coins. Personally, I want to play in the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup, and I know it is the same for my teammates.”
The Falcons are the most successful African women’s team in the world and have won the AWCON a record nine times and will be hoping to get their 10th next year after the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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