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.
S’Falcons Edge Lionesses, Await Banyana For Olympic Ticket
After a goalless first leg encounter in Cameroon in the third round qualifier for the women’s football event at the 2024 Olympic Games in France, the Super Falcons of Nigeria edged the Indomitable Lionesses by 1-0 aggregate score line to reach the final round of qualifiers.
The second leg was pivotal for the Super Falcons considering that their opponent’s stifled them in a goalless draw at Stade de la Reunification in Douala last Friday.
Competing on home ground on Monday, the Nigerian team started the match strongly and saw their efforts rewarded in the 14th minute when Esther Okoronkwo scored the opening goal, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.
During the second half, the Nigerian team implemented several tactical adjustments aimed at consolidating their lead.
In the 91st minute, Cameroon’s Annie Enganemben was shown a straight red card and was subsequently sent off, as Nigeria held onto their lead to walk away 1-0 victors and progress to the final round of the Summer Olympics qualifiers after winning the tie 1-0 on aggregate.
The Super Falcons have their sights set on qualifying for their first Olympics since their last appearance in Beijing 2008.
Their win against Cameroon could pave the way for a highly anticipated matchup against African champions South Africa in the final round of qualifiers in April 2024.
The Super Falcons hold the distinction of being the most successful international women’s football team, boasting a record eleven Women’s Africa Cup of Nations titles. Their last triumph came in 2018 when they defeated Banyana Banyana in the final.
Furthermore, the team stands alone as the only women’s national team from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to have reached the quarter-finals in both the Fifa Women’s World Cup and the Summer Olympics competitions.
The Super Falcons await the outcome of the match between South Africa and Tanzania, scheduled for yesterday, to determine their next opponent.
Banyana Banyana held a significant advantage following their 3-0 victory in the first leg.
Rivers Hoopers Sign American For Basketball Africa League
Rivers Hoopers have completed the signing of Will Perry for the 2024 Basketball Africa League.
Perry, who played for Ferroviario da Beira for two consecutive seasons, helped his team reach the quarter final of the 2023 BAL.
The American tied the BAL record for most points scored in a game and also set a record for most three-pointers made in a single game. He set the record when he scored 41 points and 8 assists including 9 three-pointers in Beira’s 109-97 win over SLAC at the 2023 BAL Nile Conference.
Perry was awarded the 2023 BAL sportsmanship award for his fairness and role played during the season.
The point guard averaged 17 points, 6.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds in the Basketball Africa League season three.
The 29 year old has previously played for CB Zamora of Spain, ADO Basquetebol SAD Ovarense (Portugal) and Akademiks Bulteks 99 Plovdiv (Bulgaria) before playing on the African continent.
He becomes the first major signing made by the reigning Nigeria Premier Basketball League champions as they prepare for their second appearance at the BAL.
Tennis: Coach Banks On Quadri For African Games
Nigeria’s table tennis coach, Segun Toriola, admits being nervous leading the Nigerian team to the forthcoming African Games in Ghana next month, but is counting on Aruna Quadri to maintain the country’s dominance in the sport when the competition begins, Tidesports source gathered.
Toriola who took over from Nosiru Bello last December, was without Quadri in his first major tournament at the World Table Tennis Championship in Busan, South Korea where Team Nigeria failed to record a win at the tournament.
Quadri had pulled out of the tournament ITTF World Table Tennis Championships due to food poisoning but has since recovered and is ready to feature at the African Games tournament according to Toriola.
“I’m in touch with him (Quadri),” Toriola said.
“I spoke with him. He is now okay and he is going to participate in the African Games. He is ready. And everybody in the team is happy about that. I’m in touch with him. I spoke to him. He is taking care of himself and so he is going to play. He is aiming for his first African Games gold medal.”
At the last edition of the African Games in Rabat, Morocco, Nigeria were ranked second after winning 10 medals (two gold, four silver and four bronze) and have finished among the top three in the last four editions of the competitions.
In men’s singles event in 2019, Olajide Omotayo won gold, Quadri Aruna silver while Toriola clinched bronze. Toriola and Omotayo won bronze in the men’s doubles event, just as Quadri Toriola and Omotayo won silver in the team event.
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