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Men’s big three and Osaka through to Italian Open’s last 16




Top seed Novak Djokovic and holder Rafael Nadal also reached the last 16.

The Swiss had criticised organisers for doubling ticket prices after he confirmed his participation last weekend.

But the fans who had made their way into Foro Italico on Thursday have been rewarded with a Federer, Djokovic and Nadal bonanza.

With rain having washed out Wednesday’s play, Federer along with Nadal and top seed Djokovic all face playing back-to-back matches on Thursday if they want to reach the quarter-finals.

The backlog means that fans on the secondary Grandstand Court can also look forward to a blockbuster schedule as Federer will be back for an evening showdown with Croatian Borna Coric.

Women’s world number one Naomi Osaka produced a solid performance to beat Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-3 in the day’s opener.

Fresh from winning the Madrid Open last week, Djokovic eased to a 6-1 6-3 win over Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

He however did not look entirely happy on the court in the second set.

The Serb was frustrated at one point that he was unable to race through it as quickly as he did in the opening set.

He had to replace his damaged racket after slamming it against his foot twice with the score at 3-3.

It seemed to work for the Serb, though.

He broke serve in that game and then wrapped up the match to set up a last-16 clash with either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Marco Cecchinato.

Djokovic was unfazed by the upcoming exertions of playing a double-header.

“It’s not the first and probably not the last time that I’ve had to play two matches in a day. So, I am looking forward to it,” he said.

“I’ve been playing well, feeling well, high confidence, and I want to keep on going.”

Earlier in the day, Nadal had treated the Grandstand fans to a 6-0 6-1 demolition of Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

The Spaniard will be back in action on the main stage against Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The 37-year old Federer moved around the court like his younger self as he rifled in 17 winners in the opening set, having broken Sousa in the seventh game.

He later saved a triple break point, the last one with a stunning crosscourt forehand.

Having broken Sousa’s serve in the opening game of the second set, the Swiss maestro was at his best again in the seventh.

He saved a double break point and went on to wrap up the entertaining contest.

“I came out of the blocks well and held serve throughout. So, I am very happy to be in the next round,” said Federer.

“I played today already and Borna didn’t. I don’t know whether it’s a disadvantage or not, but either way it’s going to be tough.”

After crashing out in the semi-finals on home soil in Madrid, Nadal wasted no time in making a statement of intent as he blew away Chardy.

Nadal won 80 percent of the points on both his first and second serve in the opening set as he tormented the Frenchman with a barrage of stinging baseline shots.

Osaka made a slow start as the Slovakian broke the world number one in the third game of the opening set, but she regained her composure quickly.

The Japanese served two aces to save a double break point in the eighth game.


(Edited by Olawale Alabi)


African Games: Flying Eagles hold Morocco to 2-2 draw, book semifinal berth



Nigeria’s Flying Eagles on Friday booked a semi-finals berth in the men’s football event of the 12th All African Games following a 2-2 draw against host, Morocco in their last Group A match.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the Flying Eagles fought back twice in the game to condemn the hosts to an early exit from the competition.

The hosts who needed a win to advance to the semi-finals stage started strongly and scored an early goal in the game.

Nigeria fought back and got a deserved equaliser late in the first half with Abubakar Ibrahim converting from the spot after Ahmad Ghali was brought down inside the box.

Morocco regained the lead from the spot early in the second half after a Flying Eagles player handled the ball in the box

However substitute Emeka Chinonso saved Nigeria’s blushes by netting the equaliser deep into stoppage time.

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Aston Villa get first points with 2-0 victory over Everton




London, Aug. 23, 2019 Promoted Aston Villa earned their first Premier League points of the season with a 2-0 win over Everton thanks to goals from Wesley and Anwar El Ghazi at Villa Park on Friday.

Villa’s Brazilian striker Wesley, signed in the close season for a club record 22 million pounds ($27.03 million), put them ahead in the 21st minute with a clinical finish after a perfectly timed through ball from Spanish midfielder Jota.

Everton, who could have claimed provisional top spot with a victory, went close to a first-half equaliser but Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s strike was superbly cleared off the line by defender Bjorn Engels.

The Merseysiders, who have four points, struggled to turn their pressure into chances until manager Marco Silva introduced new signings Moise Kean and Alex Iwobi just after the hour mark.

Iwobi struck the post in the 82nd minute with a low drive through a crowded penalty and then fellow substitute and former Arsenal winger, Theo Walcott, missed a great chance – volleying wide at the back post from a Kean cross.

Villa, back in the top flight after a three-year absence, made sure of the win in stoppage time when, after a break led by Wesley, Dutch substitute El Ghazi slotted home. (Reuters/NAN)


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Rangers handed partial stadium ban for fans’ racist behaviour



Switzerland, Aug. 23, 2019 Rangers have been ordered by UEFA to close a section of their Ibrox Stadium for Thursday’s Europa League meeting with Legia Warsaw due to racist behaviour which includes “sectarian singing” by their supporters.

The ban was placed after the European soccer’s governing body opened disciplinary proceedings against the Scottish club.

Investigated was instituted after incidents involving their fans during the second leg of their Europa League qualifier against St Joseph’s on July 18.

The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body ruled on Friday that Rangers must close a section of the stadium containing no fewer than 3,000 seats.

“Our supporters have been asked repeatedly by the club to refrain from indulging in this and other forms of unacceptable behaviour.

“Sadly the warnings have fallen on deaf ears and the actions of this minority will cause the club and the majority of good and decent Rangers supporters to pay a heavy penalty.

“This is deeply regrettable to all at the club and we hope that the guilty parties who attracted the attention of UEFA might reflect on the damage their unacceptable behaviour is causing Rangers and their fellow supporters,’’ the club’s statement said.

Sanctions for Thursday’s tie, which stands at 0-0 after this week’s playoff round first leg, also include a banner with “#EqualGame” to be placed across the empty section of seats.

Rangers Chairman Dave King said: “Rangers has players and supporters from many religions, cultures and backgrounds, but we are one and the same when we gather to support our club.


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Minister pledges rehabilitation of Abuja National Stadium



Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare has pledged to ensure the urgent rehabilitation of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium Abuja in line with international best practice.

The minister made the pledge on Friday in Abuja when he inspected facilities at the stadium.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the minister inspected the main bowl, Velodrome, Media VIP center, Power house, Medical office, Technical building, dressing room among others.

He said he was impressed with some of the facilities but noted the urgent need for the rehabilitation of the main bowl, especially the football pitch which is in a deplorable state.

Dare stressed the need to come up with innovative ways to fund and maintain the facilities while hinting on plans to privatise

the pitch-side perimeter boards advertising like its done in developed countries.

“We are going to be innovative to see how we can get extra funding, and how we can privatise the football pitch (Pitch-side Perimeter advertising boards).

“I don’t want to put a timeline, but it’s sufficient to say that is right at the top of our agenda,

“Because we know it’s taking sometime and Nigerians are interested to See Super Eagles play in Abuja, the stadium will be ready soon, ” he said.

He emphasised on the consistent use of the stadium while pledging to work with relevant stakeholders to make the stadium the hub of sporting activities in the country.

NAN reports that the main bowl of the stadium has been abandoned for some time, because of the poor state of the pitch.

The Super Eagles who hitherto played their home matches there have since relocated to Uyo and Asaba because of the poor playing turf.


edited by Sadiya Hamza

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12th African Games: Nigeria’s women wrestlers target gold haul — Akuh



Akuh told The Nigeria News Agency on Friday in Rabat that Nigeria women wrestlers would win all the six gold in the female category of the wrestling events.

“The girls will perform better than the 2015 African Games in Congo.

“We have watched clips of some wrestlers who pose as threats to us.

“We are prepared for every team coming to wrestle on the mat, and taking all six gold medals available is our target. I am confident the girls will do better.

“By the special grace of God, the girls will do well. The girls are determined to make the nation proud in the women’s wrestling event,’’ the 2017 Nigeria’s coach of the year in wrestling said.

NAN reports that Mercy Genesis (50kg), Bose Samuel (53kg), Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg), Aminat Adeniyi (62kg), Blessing Oborodudu (68kg) and Blessing Onyebuchi (76kg) will compete in the women freestyle wrestling event.

The wrestling events will begin on Aug. 28.


(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)

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