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Arsenal’s Emery awaits decision on Koscielny’s future

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery said he is awaiting a decision on Laurent Koscielny after the captain refused to travel with the squad for their pre-season tour to the United States but added the Premier League club must “keep moving ahead” regardless.

The 33-year-old French centre back, who has a year left on his contract, has been linked by the British media with a switch to Ligue one clubs Girondins Bordeaux and Olympique Lyonnais.

Emery told a news conference after Arsenal defeated Colorado Rapids 3-0 that “I spoke with him three times for his situation. We wanted him to come with us but he decided to stay.

“For me now, it’s clear. We need to keep moving ahead. We are playing with the spirit to create a new way.

“Koscielny, who joined Arsenal from French side Lorient in 2010 and has made over 350 appearances, was still an important player.

“Now it’s a matter for him and the club.

“They need to speak and are speaking about his situation. I am waiting on his conversation and decision I can’t say more than that,”the manager said.

Arsenal take on Bayern Munich on Wednesday, before matches against Fiorentina and Real Madrid as part of the International Champions Cup.

Edited by Silas Nwoha

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2021 AFCON Qualifier: Eagles wallop Lesotho’s Crocodiles 4-2 to stay top of group

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Nigeria on Sunday stayed solid at the top of their qualifying group for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with a convincing win against Lesotho in Maseru.

This was after a brace by Victor Osimhen and goals by Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze steered them to 4-2 win over the hosts.

As has happened in recent times with Nigerian teams, the Super Eagles (who also conceded a second minute goal to Benin in Uyo on Wednesday before rallying to win 2-1 on Day 1 of the qualifying series), fell behind after 11 minutes.

This was when Nkoto Masoabi rose highest between two defenders to nod powerfully beyond Daniel Akpeyi after the Crocodiles broke on a counter attack.

This was only a minute after Osimhen had rattled goalkeeper Moerane Sekhoane with a stinging shot from outside the area.

In the 17th minute, William Ekong’s flying free kick from 24 yards was parried by Sekhoane, and nine minutes later, Alex Iwobi brought Nigeria level following hard work by Victor Osimhen.

The former U17 World Cup winner saw his pull-out intercepted by a defender, chased the defender, retrieved the ball neatly and passed to Iwobi to drive into the net at the far post.

Five minutes later, Osimhen again rattled the Crocodiles’ goaltender, but in the 36th minute there was to be no stopping Nigeria.

Chukwueze rose between two taller defenders to nod home a well-weighted pass from Osimhen for the Super Eagles’ second of the evening.

Livewire forward Osimhen still had time for two attempts before half time.

In the second half, Nigeria went all out and after Osimhen had clipped the crossbar and saw another shot parried to safety, the gangling forward slid full length to score Nigeria’s third from a cross by defender Ola Aina in the 74th minute.

Osimhen again worked hard to create a glorious chance for substitute Ahmed Musa in the 80th minute, but the captain inexplicably missed from inside the box.

Fittingly, the Lille of France forward would score a second, latching onto a brilliant pass by substitute Ramon Azeez to poke beyond Sekhoane in the 84th minute to virtually assure of the maximum points.

However, defender Chidozie Awaziem enabled a respectable scoreline for the home team when he diverted a pull-out into his own net with Akpeyi wrong-footed and with only two minutes left in regulation time.

With six points and six goals, the Super Eagles have started this race well and strong.

Home matches against Lesotho and Sierra Leone will be completed by trips to Sierra Leone and Benin Republic in the final phase of the qualifying series in 2020.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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NPFL MatchDay 3: Plateau beat Wikki in battle for top spot

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Plateau United kept their place at the top with a hard fought 2-1 win against visiting Wikki Tourists of Bauchi at the new Jos stadium before a huge home crowd.

However, the talking point of the day may well be  MFM of Lagos second win on the road against Oriental sides after beating Rangers 1-0 just as they did to Heartland on opening day.

None of the two wins on the day could diminish Lobi Stars feat in Kano where they had the better of former champions, Kano Pillars.

Wikki began the day level on points with Plateau and were looking on going tops with a possible win away from home as they did on Matchday 2.

The Bauchi side took the lead on the 12th minute through Jackson Daniels.

However, Coach Andy Maikaba’s men drew level 12 minutes before the break through Mustapha Ibrahim, before Abbar Umar scrambled home Itodo’s throw-in, 10 minutes after the restart for the winner.

Tony Bolus guided MFM to their second win away from home in some stylish fashion, when they stunned Rangers in Enugu, with Chuks Kenedinum’s goal just before the break.

Similar result was recorded in Kano as Pillars, without their inspirational captain, Rabiu Ali, lost by a lone goal to visiting Lobi Stars.

Douglas Achiv was the scorer for Coach Gbenga Ogunbote’s side.

At the Enyimba Stadium in Aba, eight time champions, Enyimba stunned Akwa United 3-1, to go second on the log.

Austin Oladapo had given Abdallah’s men the advantage on 13 minutes through a penalty, before Stanley Dimgba and Samson Obi grabbed the second and third on 30 and 33 minutes respectively.

Mfon Udoh’s clever chip could only help reduce the deficit for the Promise Keepers six minutes before the break.

Tasiu Lawal’s penalty on 64 minutes helped Katsina United to a lone goal victory at home to visiting Nasarawa United.

Danladi Umar had earlier denied the striker from a similar scenario on the 40th minute.

Elsewhere, Phillip Auta’s effort on 32nd minute salvaged a point for Abia Warriors at home to Kabiru Dogo’s Sunshine Stars.

The Akure side earlier took control of the game with Fuad Ekelejuoti’s goal on 19 minutes.

Less than 42kilometres away from Umuahia, Heartland FC had to rely on Nnonshiri Samuel’s 63rd minute penalty, to salvage a point at home to visiting Akwa Starlets FC.

The Uyo side drew first blood through Femi Ajayis goal six minutes before the break.

Chigozie Chilekwu’s header was the difference between FC IfeanyiUbah and Rivers United in Nnwei, while Efe Yarhere and Sunday Williams aided Warri Wolves to a 2-0 win at home to newcomers Adamawa United.

Mubaraka Abdulsallam, Isaac Oduro, Otukhe Egbo and Williams Nmesitionye were the scorers as Delta Force humbled Jigawa Golden Stars 4-1. The visitors consolation came through Ali Musa in 62 minutes.

Nigeria News Agency reports that a total of 22 goals were scored with six home wins, two away wins and two draws recorded at the end of  MatchDay 3.

MatchDay 3 Results

Plateau Utd 2-1 Wikki Tourists

Delta Force 4-1 Jigawa GS

Kano Pillars 0-1 Lobi Stars

Heartland 1-1 Akwa Starlets

FC Ifeanyi Ubah 1-0 Rivers Utd

Rangers 0-1 MFM

Warri Wolves 2-0 Adamawa Utd

Abia Warriors 1-1 Sunshine Stars

Enyimba 3-1 Akwa Utd

Katsina Utd 1-0 Nasarawa Utd.

Edited by Dianabasi Effiong/Sadiya Hamza

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England secure Euro 2020 seeding slot with 4-0 win in Kosovo

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Harry Kane scored his 12th goal of the campaign as England secured a place among top six seeds for next year’s European Championship with a flattering 4-0 win in Kosovo in their final qualifier on Sunday.

England were in second gear for much of the match after Harry Winks had put them ahead in the 32nd minute.

However, goals by Kane, Marcus Rashford and Mason Mount in the latter stages secured yet another big win and took their goal tally to 37 from their eight qualifiers.

England, already assured of a place at the finals, finished top of Group A with 21 points, their only blip being last month’s 2-1 defeat in the Czech Republic, who have qualified as runners-up.

In their first Euros campaign since being recognised as an independent nation, Kosovo finished third on 11 points.

Their chances of automatic qualification disappeared after a 2-1 defeat by the Czechs on Thursday but they could advance via the playoffs.

England took a while to impose themselves on the game but eventually broke through thanks to Winks.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slid a pass into the path of Winks who was given all the time and space he needed to slot it into the bottom corner for his first international goal.

Two months ago England led the corresponding home fixture 5-1 at halftime.

But this time, their somewhat sloppy display, short on intensity and with several squad players not grasping their opportunity having being given a start by Gareth Southgate, left them way short of those levels.

Kosovo, who exposed England’s defence a few times in their 5-3 loss in September, were less threatening but Amir Rrahmani headed wide early in the second half.

Kane, who got a hat-trick in Thursday’s 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro, hit a post after an hour but was on target in the 79th minute with a sharp shot after Kosovo failed to clear a Raheem Sterling cross.

His 12th goal made him the leading scorer across the competition and the first England player to score in every match of a qualifying campaign.

Sterling, back in the side after his one-match ban for attacking team mate Joe Gomez, was the provider again three minutes later for Rashford, who scored with a neat first time shot.

Substitute Mount then claimed his first England goal in stoppage time, cashing in on another defensive error and a neat pass from Kane.

“It’s a dream come true to score for my country,” said Winks, who enjoyed playing in a more attacking midfield role.

“To score and also with the way we were playing as well, it’s a great moment for me.

“I like to consider myself as someone who can play in pivot or as a number eight as well.

“I like both, it’s difficult to say what I prefer so as long as I play for England that’s all that matters.”

Edited by Joseph Edeh

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Ronaldo moves onto 99 as Portugal qualify for Euro 2020

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Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 99th international goal as the defending champions edged past Luxembourg 2-0 in difficult conditions away from home on Sunday to qualify for Euro 2020.

Bruno Fernandes broke the deadlock in the 39th minute and Ronaldo wrapped it up with four minutes left to ensure that Portugal finished second in Group B with 17 points, three ahead of Serbia who drew 2-2 with Ukraine.

Diogo Jota’s shot appeared to be going in any way but Ronaldo prodded it over to claim the goal.

He is one short of joining Iran’s Ali Daei, the only player to have scored a century of goals for a national team.

“I would have been very proud to have scored my first goal for the national team, but the important thing is we won.

“It doesn’t matter who scores — we are in the Euros and that is what we wanted,” Jota said.

Portugal survived several early scares as they struggled to impose their game on a rain-soaked pitch full of divots at the Josy Barthel stadium.

Ronaldo, in particular, was not enjoying the conditions and gestured angrily at the pitch after sending a speculative wide in the first half.

Needing a win to qualify without having to worry about Serbia’s result, Portugal were in trouble early on as Luxembourg saw a chance to spring an upset.

Maurice Deville got above his marker and headed over from Laurent Jans’ cross and Vincent Thill, a thorn in Portugal’s side, had a goalbound shot blocked by Ruben Dias.

Luxembourg were even closer when a corner found Gerons Rodrigues unmarked but he headed over.

Portugal began to adapt to the conditions and their more direct approach was rewarded with a goal.

Bernardo Silva floated a pass over the Luxembourg defence from deep inside his own half and into the path of Fernandes who took it superbly in his stride and fired a low shot between Anthony Moris and the near post.

The second half was more comfortable for Portugal as they dominated possession although there still anxious moments.

Ronaldo nearly sealed it when he curled a free kick narrowly wide from the edge of the area.

With four minutes left, Silva’s cross found Jota and Moris got a hand to it but could not stop it crossing the line and Ronaldo poked it home for good measure.

“We won’t be favourites but we are going there to win,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, whose side also won the inaugural Nations League this year.

“We are not the prettiest team but we have won two European tournaments in the last four years.”

Edited by Joseph Edeh

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NPFL: Lobi stun Pillars 1-0 in Kano

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NPFL: Lobi stun Pillars 1-0 in Kano

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Kano, Nov. 17,2019 Visiting Lobi Stars Football Club of Makurdi on Sunday defeated Kano Pillars FC 1-0 in a Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) match played in Kano.

The match was played under closed doors at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano.

The encounter was one of the three matches to be played under closed doors to serve as punishment for the home team for fans’ pitch invasion during their Super Six encounter against Enugu Rangers FC in Lagos.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that Lobi stars scored at the 63rd minute through Douglas Achiv following a defensive error by Pillars backline.

Reacting, Pillars coach, Ibrahim Musa, said the loss was partially due to absence of home fans who usually play major role in motivating the team to victory.

“The Absence of our teeming supporters is affecting our team particularly during home games because we drew with Rivers United at home, but that’s not an excuse for dropping points,” he said at a post match conference.

The coach said the second half goal conceded by his team gave more confidence to the visitors.

He, however, said that his team would beat newly promoted Jigawa Golden Stars on Wednesday in Kano to restore confidence in their fans.

Lobi Chief Coach, Gbenga Ogunbote, said his team played and took advantage of the pressure on the home team to win.

“We know that Pillars are good and an experienced team and they want to win. They drew their first home game against Rivers.

So, we needed to play on their psychology,” he said.(NAN )

Edited by Joseph Edeh/Ali Baba-Inuwa

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MFM shocks Rangers 1-0 in Enugu

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Rangers International Football Cub of Enugu on Sunday bowed 1-0 to Mountain of Fire and Miracle (MFM) of Lagos in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) played in Enugu.

Kenedinum Chuks of MFM scored the only goal of the match in the 45th minute before the break.

Rangers, who missed several scoring chances in the match as the worst of it was the last miss which hit the woodwork.

Speaking after the match, MFM coach, Tony Bulus said that the match worked out perfectly for them.

”It is a good thing, coming back home with a victory as I worked with Rangers in 2016 when they won the league.

”Rangers team is a good club in Nigeria and even in the continent but football is dynamic.

Bulus said that the knowledge he had about Rangers helped him to work out a suitable tactics that will get a favourable outcome for his team.

The coach praised his team for making two wins from two away matches in the ongoing season.

Edited by Joseph Edeh/Maureen Atuonwu

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