• Sat. May 18th, 2024

Pick of the week: Leverkusen ends Bayern dominance, NBA best-of-seven playoff series runs through as F1 returned to China after five years

BY Nengi Ernest

Last week was full of thrills and frills as we pinpointed great moments worth reliving. This week brings another reason to bury one’s nose in the latest chronicles of sports.

Beginning from the king of sports, football, at the mere whisper of the UEFA Champions League, football enthusiasts seem to beam from ear to ear as it is truly unputdownable. After a plethora of goals during the first leg, the UCL quarter-finals’ second leg was concluded, with the final four unveiled, which generated eustress amongst fans after all it was highly anticipated. Teams like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid proved to be real juggernauts, while PSG and Dortmund also made it to the semi-finals. The game between Real Madrid and Man City was a keenly contested one that had to be decided by penalties, which went in favour of Madrid. Other major talking points were around Arsenal’s exit, but there might be no point of shame, especially after being defeated by Bayern, who have gotten to the 14th semi-finals in the competition. Arteta and his boys can only learn from this and keep building.

In the same vein, the Europa League second leg quarter-finals came with so much drama and heartbreak. Bayer Leverkusen continued their unbeaten streak however, it was not the best week for EPL clubs in the Champions League and Europa League as Liverpool and Westham Utd were knocked out of the competition, Benfica and Ac Milan were not left out of the Knock out equation either.

To wrap the quarter-finals up in the Conference League, Aston Villa made sure to get into the semi-finals after winning on penalties. Fiorentina, Olympiacos, and Club Brugge completed the list of semi-finalists in the third tier of the European club’s football competition.

In Germany, the mellifluous melody of songs, cheers, and beautiful display of fireworks filled the bay arena as Bayer Leverkusen’s 5-0 victory against Werder Bremen ended Bayern Munich’s 11 years of dominance as they won their first Bundesliga title in history with five games to spare. A remarkable achievement for Xabi Alonso and Leverkusen, who were at the second bottom of the table when he took charge in 2022. From rollercoaster seasons and being tagged as Neverkusen to unbeaten juggernauts and rise to glory. The question is, can they repeat the same feat next season??

From the pitch to the courts, we witnessed the end of the regular season in the NBA with various teams making it to the playoffs while the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seeds in each conference on Tuesday 16th started the play in games. The Lakers and 76ers advanced to the playoffs after a one-off game, while after two rounds of games, the Miami Heat and Pelicans also confirmed their spot in the playoffs. Immediately, the first-round best of the seven playoff series opened on the 20th of Saturday, April, with Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, and Denver Nuggets taking a 1-0 series lead.

Still on the courts, in Tennis, Rafael Nadal made a swift return and an early exit from the Barcelona Open after losing to Alex De Minaur, who has climbed into the top 10 7-5 6-1. Casper Ruud will meet Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona Open final today. Both players met at the Monte Carlo finals, where Tsitsipas captured the title, and the Barcelona Open finals will be a thrilling rematch.

From the courts to the tracks, it’s been a busy week on the tracks. Spain Maverick Vinales had a perfect run as he overcame a horror start that saw him drop to 11th after the first lap to win the grand prix of the Americas MotoGP in Texas.

In Formula 1, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, before the Chinese GP, completed his first f1 test with the Mercedes team in Austria. He is the leading contender to replace Lewis Hamilton, who is bound to move to Ferrari in 2025.

Equally, F1 returned to China for the first time since 2019, and only a few envisaged the drama that came with it. Following a reshuffling of the sprint format, the sprint qualifying session took place for the first time on Friday, and Lando Norris beat Lewis Hamilton to pole after having his fastest lap reinstated, it was initially deleted for exceeding track limits at the final corner. On Saturday, Max Verstappen claimed a pole position for the Grandprix. Max Verstappen retained dominance and claimed a maiden Chinese GP victory ahead of Lando Norris, although, during the race back to back-to-back safety car interruptions reduced his lead, he built back the advantage to seal his fourth win in five races this season. Following the safety cars caused by engine failure on Valteri Bolta’s Sabeur and a crash at the restart, Lando Norris was also able to leapfrog Sergio Perez to claim second on the podium.

Summing up, in Nigeria, the NFF technical committee during the week met at Abuja to decide who amongst the seven shortlisted candidates will become the new coach of the Super Eagles. Recall that the NFF recently appointed Manu Garba as the coach of the u17 team, so everyone was in high anticipation of the announcement of the new Super Eagles coach. In fact, this would have been the hottest sports moment in Nigeria, but it was pipped down when, the minister of sports John Owan Enoh according to reports revealed on Friday, that the delay in the announcement was due to the NFF very careful so as not to repeat the mistake of not qualifying for the 2026 world cup. He, however, added that the new coach would be announced in the next one or two weeks’ time.

In women’s football, the NWFL midweek matches ended with Rivers Angels, Confluence, Heartland Queens, and Nassarawa Amazons booking their place in the Super 6.

Join me next week as we bring more exciting stories your way

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