• Sat. May 18th, 2024

From the street of Abuja through Aba, Awka, the Ancient city of Benin, connecting Kano, and Sokoto and extending to the shores of Africa. Finding the most intriguing and scintillating happenings in Europe — glancing through the Madrid Mutua Open, bypassing the city of Leicester and navigating the sea of NBA Playoffs Thrills of the week are loaded in this read and anticipation into what next week could offer.

Pick of the week: Celebrations in the championship as two teams qualify automatically to the EPL, NFF looks to wrap up contract details of the new coach as world no.1 Swiatek certainly proves women’s tennis, is not a boring sport.

By Nengi Ernest

With many actions in football and across other sports still unfolding, we should brace up for more actions. This week was an exceptional one as it was graced with expectations of sports fans and teams coming to reality.

The NFF finally extinguished the fevered speculation and bestowed the honours on Finidi George to lead the Super Eagles. The announcement was made on Monday when the board of the NFF approved the recommendation of the technical committee to appoint Finidi George as the head coach of the senior national men’s team, Super Eagles. However, we await the unveiling of the contract details and the crew that would work with the new coach.

On the tracks, the Moto GP Spanish Grand Prix returned with drama. Reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia won his third successive Spanish grand prix as home favourite Jorge Martins lost control over his bike at the 11th lap paving the way for Bagnaia to secure a victory despite the tussle with 6-time champion Marc Marquez who finished second on the podium. Italy Marco Bezzechi came third at the circuitous de Jerez. Nevertheless, Martin, who races for Pramac, remains the leader in the overall standings with 26 pts, 17 points in front of  Ducati’s Bagnaia.

In Europe, the Allianz arena, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich, two juggernauts in the UEFA Champions League locked horns with both sides sharing the spoils at the end of the semi-finals first leg. The  Brazillian forward Vinicious Jr gave his team the lead in the first half but Sane resurrected the hopes of Bayern with a goal in the second half before Harry Kane also slotted home from the penalty spot to give the game a turnaround in 4 minutes. Bayern controlled most part of the game but unfortunately squandered their lead with 7 minutes left when Kim Min Jae brought down Rodrygo in the box and Vinicius did the needful by sending Neuer the wrong way to level the tie at 2-2.

Meanwhile, it was almost difficult to adjust to the cacophony produced by the colour and noise in Signal Iduna Park, however, it was a pulsating game between Dortmund and PSG, Jadon Sancho was the star of the match as he stole the hearts of many with his performance with Dortmund winning 1-0. Sancho was very instrumental in his side’s win as he gave Nuno Mendes a tough time and could have gotten a hat trick of assists if his teammates had scored goals. Fulkrugs first-half strike gave Dortmund a deserved victory. Dortmund’s win implied that the premier league had missed out on the fifth Champions League spot next season. Germany now joins Italy to get an automatic spot in the next season’s tournament.

On the flip side, for the Europa League, Bayer Leverkusen couldn’t stop winning. After all, the results are the only language teaming fans and club owners understand. Leverkusen headed to the Italian capital and maintained their unbeaten run as they won Roma 2-0 in the first leg of the semi-finals. The goals were the courtesy of Florian Writz and  Robert Andrich. Marseille and Atalanta shared the spoils in the first leg as they all settled for one goal each.

On the other hand, the Europa Conference League semi-finals first leg came with a total of 11 goals,  Aston Villa, started the game as favourites to win their first European trophy but Olympiacos striker El Kaabi proved too good as Olympiacos raced to a 4-2 victory against Unai Emery’s men, Oly Watkins and Moussa Diaby dragged Villa level at some point but El Kaabi’s hatrick stunned them. Fiorentina also got a massive win against club Brugge 3-2, and the first-leg encounter ended.

In the English Championship, Leicester City, at first, it was like a dream as they started like a house on fire, winning 12 of their 13 games after being relegated from the premier league. despite that, they still questioned if they’d bounce back to the EPL at their first time of asking. It was surprising given that standard players like James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, and Youri Tielemans had moved.  Nevertheless, they had a beautiful run and completely sealed the title with one game to spare when they cruised to a 3-0 victory over Preston North End. Leicester City and Ipswich Town, after 22 years, automatically qualify for the EPL, but Leeds, Southampton, Norwich, and Westbrom would have to go through the playoff route.

In basketball, it was an easy route for the defending champions, Denver Nuggets against the Lakers in the best-of-series NBA playoffs, jamal Murray was very instrumental in his side’s victory as he scored a buzzer-beater in game two and also clinched the game-winner in game 4 with 3.6seconds left in the game. The Pacers, Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, and Dallas Mavericks were victorious to advance to both the Eastern and Western Conference semi-finals. The semi-finals kicked off with the Timberwolves striking first against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semis, securing the first game 1-0.

Furthermore, the Basketball African League kickstarted with a win for Rivers Hoopers as they created an upset in the game against As Douanes to grab their first win 77-68. Define Eke starred with 31pts, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Still on the courts, the Madrid Open in Tennis served us hot. World no.1  Iga Swiatek, after 3 hours 11 minutes, conjured up an epic winner in a sensational style against Aryna Sabalenka in a repeat of last year’s finals where Sabalenka came out tops. This time, Iga Swiatek flipped the script to beat Sabalenka 7-5 4-6 7-6 (9-7). The game goes down in history as one of the longest women’s singles finals in the Mutua Madrid Open. In addition, Swiatek has now won all three big clay titles, the French Open in 2020,2022,2023, Rome in 2021, 2022 and in Madrid in 2024 making her the fourth WTA player to do it after Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep.

In Nigeria, the President Federation Cup kickstarted, and alongside the games, the logo of the President Federation Cup was unveiled coupled with the fixtures for the round of 32.

With Sheffield United relegated from the EPL after their 5-1 loss against Newcastle, Burnley is also on the brink of relegation. It’s crunch time both in the EPL and Uefa Champions League.  Next week promises to be filled with thrilling action that will be brought your way.

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