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Ajax Defeats Spurs, Closes In On Champions League Final

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Ajax closed in on a first Champions League final for 23 years as Donny van de Beek’s early goal beat an injury-hit Tottenham 1-0 in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday.
Van de Beek’s opener on 15 minutes was just reward for the Dutch side’s first-half dominance as Tottenham badly missed the presence of the injured Harry Kane and suspended Son Heung-min.
Tottenham improved after the break despite another injury blow as Jan Vertonghen had to be helped down the tunnel after a sickening head knock, but lacked the inspiration needed to get back on level terms without their two top scorers.
And Ajax could easily have had an even greater lead to take back to the Johan Cruyff Arena for the second leg next week when David Neres hit the post 10 minutes from time.
Ajax had shown they are not fazed on the road despite the tender age of many of their squad by shocking Real Madrid and Juventus away to reach the last four and started confidently.
Spurs were happy to sit deep and wait for their chances to counter-attack, but that game plan was undone when Hakim Ziyech’s through ball picked out midfielder Van de Beek who took his time to leave Hugo Lloris prone before slotting into the bottom corner.
Lloris kept his side in the game 10 minutes later from another Van de Beek effort as Ajax threatened to run riot.
Fernando Llorente was the hero with the decisive goal as Mauricio Pochettino’s men upset the odds to end Manchester City’s quest for a quadruple of trophies in the quarter-finals.
However, the cumbersome Spaniard struggled to provide the out ball his side needed to relieve the Ajax pressure.
Set-pieces provided Tottenham’s best chance of scoring before the break as Llorente headed wide and Toby Alder shot wide over from Kieran Trippier free-kicks.
– Spurs miss Kane and Son –
On top of Kane and Son, Spurs were shorn of the injured Erik Lamela and Harry Winks and lost another key player when Vertonghen came off worst as he contested a high ball with Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana.
The Belgian was patched up and briefly returned to the field before having to be helped down the tunnel with questions sure to be asked why the Spurs medical staff allowed him to continue.

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European Clubs Distasteful, Disrespectful Over Afcon – Ikeme

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Former Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme has described the reaction of European clubs to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations as distasteful.
Ikeme, who made 10 appearances for the Super Eagles before his early retirement in 2018, weighed in on the issue of releasing players for the tournament during the European season and he described it as disrespectful to African football.
The former Wolverhampton Wanderers star believes the foremost African football competition is just as important as the European Championship and that players derive joy in representing their countries in a major event like Afcon.
“I don’t think it is professional, I think it is distasteful. I don’t think it helps the reputation of African football, I think it is disrespectful,” Ikeme told Tidesports source.
“Whether you are playing for England, Spain, Nigeria or Egypt, there is no difference. These players find pride in wearing their national team jerseys.
“When I was playing, it was the biggest honour I had in my career, playing for my national team and nothing can be compared to it.
“To think any player who is looking at Afcon as a burden is wrong because they love representing their countries, as you can see when Iheanacho scored Nigeria’s goal against Egypt, how Nigerians in Cameroon celebrated.

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AFCON 2021: ‘Good Times Are Back For Nigeria’

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Good times are back for the Super Eagles declared Nigerian legend Jay Jay Okocha after the team wrapped-up their Group D campaign with a perfect record on Wednesday.
Nigeria made it three-out-of-three following a 2-0 win over Guinea Bissau on Wednesday to see the two-time AFCON champions march on to the last 16 with a 100 percent record after topping Group D on 9 points, scoring 6 goals and conceding just one in the process.
Okocha said it was even more gratifying to see Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen make a massive eight changes in Wednesday’s game.
The highlight saw striker Sadqi Umar score in his first AFCON start when he netted the opening goal in the 56th minute before Nigeria captain William Ekong wrapped-up the match in the 79th minute.
“He has got a great team of not just eleven good players but also twenty-something good players that he can rely on,” Okocha stated.
“There is nothing better for the coach than giving a player a chance and him paying you back by restoring his confidence in you.
“I think it is good to see that we are flying high but the game today is gone, the most important one is the next one and we can only justify our performances so far if we go on and win the next one.”
Nigeria returns to action this Sunday and await the best third place finisher from yesterday’s night’s tight Group E and F encounter’s.
“So every next game is the toughest one for you and the one you have to win,” Okocha said.
“I hope we will carry on the good job that we are doing so far.”

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Nigeria, Egypt Tipped For AFCON 2021 Title

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Sudan coach Burhan Tia has tipped Nigeria for a long run at the Africa Cup of Nations following the Super Eagles’ strong group-stage campaign.
The Falcons of Jediane were defeated by both the West African giants and Egypt’s Pharaohs during their brief stint in the competition, and has seen enough from both sides to expect great things from them in the fixtures to come.
“Could Egypt or Nigeria be champions?” Tia asked rhetorically. “Both teams are very good and both played good football in the group.
“They are two teams who could go very far in the competition.”
The Super Eagles faced off with Sudan in their second group match, having dispatched Egypt 1-0 in their opener.
The result was a 3-1 triumph for Augustine Eguavoen’s men, with Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi and Moses Simon netting the goals to confirm Nigeria’s passage to the Last 16.
The West African giants subsequently downed Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in their final group game on Wednesday to ensure they reach the knockout stages as the only team in the tournament with a 100-percent record.
It’s the first time since 2006 that Nigeria has navigated a Nations Cup group stage with maximum points, fuelling expectation that the West African giants can go the distance in the tournament for the first time since 2013.
Sudan’s campaign ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat by an unconvincing Egypt side in Yaounde on Wednesday, although coach Tia was downhearted with his side’s performance.
“We were concentrated on our game and we did as much as possible to see to it that we could put up a good fight,” he continued. “It wasn’t perfect but we tried our best.”
Ex-Al-Merreikh boss Tia was not happy with the mistakes his team made as they tried to keep their North African rivals at bay in the Nile Derby, but believes his side can hold their head high as they exit the competition.
“We played our game as much as we should have, we played quite well but I think that we had a number of mistakes as far as our players are concerned,” he concluded. “We will get better and we will try as much as possible to try and correct our mistakes.
“It was possible for us not to make them, but it was an important game for us, and we made effort and tried our best.

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