• Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

Pick of the week:  Manchester United seals European league spot, Ademola Lookman’s stunning hatrick ended Atlanta120 years trophy drought as  Barcelona women end losing streak against Lyon, and Edo Queens clinch NWFL title.

From the thrilling conclusion of the Europa League finals, the shocking results from the FA Cup finals, the Women’s Uefa Champions League finals game, down to the firing and hiring of coaches as the season ended and the conclusion of the NWFL, this week was packed with exciting sporting events that kept fans to the edge of their seat and had something for everyone.

Evidently, it appears that Nigerian players who ply their trades in European clubs have captured the interest of every sports lover, perhaps these players have become their clubs’ most precious gem, incomparable and unbreakable from Victor Osimhen’s triumph with Napoli last season to Victor Boniface inspiring finish with Leverkusen, down to Ademola Lookman’s victory in the Europa League, not leaving out Troost Ekong’s title with PAOK and Christy Ucheibe’s quadruple with Benfica Feminino.

In fact, it was another week, another final, another celebration. Gasperini’s team had lost in the Coppa Italia finals seven days earlier, but they bounced back in time to knock Bayern Leverkusen out of their unbeaten run and Ademola Lookman who was a former player of Everton, Fulham and Leicester provided the finish touches to sum up a phenomenal performance. It seemed Leverkusen wasn’t prepared for Atalanta’s high-pressing play and forced early errors that caused the sway of the pendulum. Leverkusen did not heed the early warnings as Atalanta went ahead with a goal in the 12th minute courtesy of Ademola Lookman, in the 26th minute he added another one and completed a stunning hat-trick in the 75th minute.
His hat trick is the sixth hat trick to be scored in the finals of a major UEFA competition, and the first since Jupp Heynck for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup treble. Alonso’s team ran out of steam, which ended their 51-game unbeaten run and lost to Atlanta 3-0. 

On the other hand, the build-up to the FA Cup finals was surrounded by Erik ten Hag’s shaky future in Man Utd and if it were to be through that they had decided to part ways with him then the team gave him the ultimate send off as they won the FA cup trophy with 2-0 against a strong Man City side at Wembley. The goals were the courtesy of Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo in the 30th and 39th minutes. Arch Rivals City tried to come back with Jeremy Doku scoring in the 87th minute, but it wasn’t enough.
The FA Cup victory is the second silver Ware United has gotten under Ten Hag aside from their Carabao Cup last season, it also turned out that they secured a place in the European league but the big question remains would Ten Hag still lead them to next season.

Following this, in the women’s Champions, league finals, Barcelona, ended their losing streak against Lyon to clinch a third women’s Champions League in four years.  Before the finals, Barcelona met Lyon four times previously, with the French side coming up as the top. In contrast with their head-to-head stats, goals from Alexia Putellas and Aintana Bonmati gave Barca women a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao. The result capped an unprecedented quadruple for Barcelona who had already secured the Liga F, Copa de la Reina and the Spanish Super Cup leaving Sonia Bompastor who is set to replace Emma Hayes at Chelsea disappointed as she failed to attain the send-off she had hoped for.

Still in Europe, Pep Guardiola was named the 2023/24 Premier League manager after a historic campaign with Manchester City. Guardiola wins the award for the fifth time having also claimed it in four of his five previous titles winning campaigns in 2017/18, 2018/19,2020/21 and 2022/23 only Sir Alex Ferguson has received more accolades than the 53-year-old Spaniard.

In Spain, Barcelona sacked head coach Xavi after three years in the role, with former Bayern Munich and Germany boss Hansi Flick primed to replace him. It will be recalled that on January 27th, 2024 Xavi announced he would walk away from the role, On April 24th the club announced Xavi had reversed his decision and would take the team into the next season and on May 24th Xavi was sacked as manager. However, this has caused many questions, such as how Barcelona treat their legends badly.

Elsewhere, Chelsea is looking for a new coach after sacking Mauricio Pochettino. Brighton also parted ways with Roberto de Zerbi. Again, Bayern Munich is another top club looking for another manager after Thomas Tuchel was informed about their decision not to keep him, Ac Milan also announced that manager Stefano Pioli will leave the club with Roma boss Paulo Fonseca at the forefront to succeed him. Finally, Juventus also sacked Massimiliano Allegri after his behaviour in the Coppa Italia win over Atalanta he is set to be replaced by Thiago Motta.

In basketball, the BAL playoffs kickstarted with Rivers Hoopers against As Douanes, which did not go the way of the Kingsmen as they lost 57-63. Their play was characterised by slow starts, turnovers, and poor defence. They stand to take on US Monastir on Monday for the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, the NBA made some tweaks as it concerns the all-defensive team this season. The NBA’s 65-game minimum for most awards was also applicable to all defence, so every player chosen must have taken part in 65 games or meet the specific league requirements. Unlike other seasons, this time, voters were free to choose any 10 players they wished. So the all-defensive first-team selections are:

On the other hand, the 2024 NBA draft would go down as a memorable one. It was filled with a variety of players who went from talents to quality role players. So it’s not a surprise that the all-rookie team was filled with talented players who will have a lengthy NBA career. Here is the 2023/24 all-rookie first team.

In Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Sports has unveiled the date for the 22nd National Sports Festival scheduled to be held in Ogun State. The National Sports Festival tagged the Gateway games will run from the 12th to the 25th of January 2025. The games village will be opened from the 12th -the 14th while the opening ceremony which will start the Sports Festival will be held at the MKO Abiola stadium, Abeokuta on the 15th and thereafter other activities will follow till the 24th and then the closing ceremony will be on the 25th of January 2025.

It was reported that coach Finidi George was looking for the right replacement for injured players in the squad, hence the delay in the release of the squad list against the Bafana Bafana and Benin Republic World Cup qualifiers. However, the squad list was released with coach Finidi picking a crop of 23 players with goalkeeper Maduka Okoye making a return to the team while Remo Stars defender Ismail Sodiq gets a first call-up. Nigeria will take on Bafana Bafana at the Godswill Akapbio stadium on the 7th of June and then fly to Cote d’Ivoire for their second game against Benin Republic at the Felix Houphouet Boigny stadium.

In the NWFL Super 6, Edo Queens, after a fierce battle in the south-south derby, against Bayelsa Queens, which ended in a one-all draw, were crowned the champions of the 2023/24 NWFL season. The only goal from the Edo-based side was courtesy of Emem Essienin in the 29th minute of the game and even when Bayelsa Queens equalised in the 49th minute through Zainab Olopade there were no worries as that was enough because Heartland holds Rivers Angels to a one-all draw.

Whereas, the journey of the Golden Eaglets in the Wafu B U17 Championship came to an end as they bowed out of the tournament after losing 1-0 to Ivory Coast.

Join us next week as we relive some of the actions in sports  that make the week unforgettable

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