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Euro 2020 Qualifiers: Harsh penalty earns Italy 2-1 win in Finland

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Italy maintained their perfect record in Euro 2020 qualifying when a harsh penalty converted by Jorginho gave them a 2-1 win in Finland on Sunday.

Jorginho scored the spot kick with 11 minutes left after Nicolo Barella’s shot hit Sauli Vaisanen’s arm just above the elbow at point-blank range when the Finnish player had his arm across his chest.

Ciro Immobile had earlier headed Italy in front in the 59th minute with his first international goal for two years before Teemu Pukki levelled for Finland with a penalty in the 72nd minute.

Italy lead Group J with 18 points from six games, six ahead of second-placed Finland who remained on course for their first-ever major tournament appearance despite the defeat.

Armenia have nine points after their 4-2 win over Bosnia, who are fourth with seven. The top two teams qualify for Euro 2020 and Finland will have a second chance through the Nations League play-offs.

“We suffered a little but we caused it ourselves by losing the ball where we shouldn’t lose it,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who has been given the job of rebuilding the team following their failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup.

“On the other hand, there were lots of things that I liked. It’s very positive that we dominate games away from home. Our nature is always to attack and I’ve seen that again tonight, giving very little of the ball to our opponents.”

Finland started aggressively, pressing Italy and causing them to make some mistakes in defence, with Emerson Palmieri pulling a muscle as he chased back to stop a Pukki run.

Italy began to assert themselves and Stefano Sensi brought a flying save from Lukas Hradecky with an exquisite volley on the turn from the edge of the area.

Francesco Acerbi had a shot deflected for a corner, another Sensi effort fizzed wide of the post and Hradecky saved with his legs to deny Federico Chiesa from a tight angle.

Finland had a chance at start of the second half when Pukki was released on the left but he skewed his shot wide.

Italy took back control and went ahead when Chiesa made space on the right and delivered a pinpoint cross for Immobile, who powered his header past Hradecky for his first Italy goal since September 2017 when he scored against Israel.

Shortly afterwards, Pukki burst into the Italy penalty area and went down under a challenge from Sensi, who also marred his fine performance by starting the move when he lost possession in midfield.

The Norwich City striker comfortably converted for Finland’s first goal against Italy since 1977.

Yet Italy replied with a penalty of their own which is bound  to fuel the controversy over the new handball rules. (Reuters/NAN)
VO/MZA

Edited by Maharazu Ahmed

Sport

Committee to restructure Jigawa Golden Stars FC inaugurated

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The Chairman, Jigawa Golden Stars Football Club’s Steering Committee, Abubakar Saddieq, on Wednesday in Dutse said the committee would restructure the club within six months.

Saddieq, a retired Air Force official, disclosed this to newsmen after the inauguration of the Steering Committee in Dutse.

He said in order to achieve this, the committee has strategised by putting in place road maps for short, medium and long terms.

Saddieq stated that in the long term, the committee would at the end of the next six months from inauguration commence preparations for the club’s financial autonomy and corporate sponsorship drive.

In the short term, within 48 hours, the committee will appoint Mannir Adamu as its Secretary, Hamisu Mailafiya as acting Team Manager and begin a downsizing of the club’s support staff.

In the medium term, the committee will register the club with the Corporate Affairs  Commission (CAC), open a cash flow account in commercial banks and obtain thevaccount numbers of all players and staff of the club.

And, in the long term, the committee will commence the preparations for the financial autonomy of the club and corporate sponsorship drive,” he said.

The committee chairman said the planned restructuring was expected to be effected within 40 hours to six months of the steering committee’s inauguration.

Earlier, Muhammad Alhassan, the state’s Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Culture,  who inaugurated the committee, had said the club would do  its best to win the national football championship or maintain its status in the Premier League.

Today we are witnessing yet another history in Jigawa Golden Stars with the inaugurating of new management committee members who will contribute to the development of the team by winning the national Aiteo Cup or at least maintain the club’s place in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

The club after seven years of playing in the Nigeria National League (NNL) is fortunate enough to return to the Premier League stage.

Now, since the 2019/2020 season started in November, the club has played six matches, three home and away each, with one outstanding away match against Rangers International FC of Enugu,” the commissioner said.

In his remarks, Gambo Labbo, the Director of Sports, Jigawa Sports Council,  commended the commissioner for the plan to restructure the club.

He also commended the ongoing renovation at both the Hadeija and Dutse township stadiums.

(Edited by: Chidinma Agu and Olawale Alabi)
(NAN)
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We are on track in improving Manchester United, Solskjaer says

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Manchester United’s recent wins over Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, in spite of missing several injured players, are signs the team are moving in the right direction.

Club manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said this on Wednesday.

With club record signing Paul Pogba among those sidelined, Manchester United handed their former boss Jose Mourinho his first Spurs defeat last week.

They also dented the 2019/2020 English Premier League (EPL) title charge of Pep Guardiola’s faltering Manchester City on Saturday.

We’ve come through a sticky patch in terms of injuries and form,” Solskjaer told a Europa League news conference.

This has come before his side, who have already qualified for the last 32 knockout stage, face Dutch team AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Results are the proof but inside we’ve always believed in what we’re doing. We’re on the right track… I see the boys training every day and the attitude and the quality. So, I’ve not been too worried,” Solskjaer said.

Manchester United’s form has been patchy this season.

But, after climbing to fifth in the league and moving within five points of fourth-placed Chelsea after a five-game unbeaten run, Solskjaer backed his team to improve further.

“Of course, consistency is vital if you want to win trophies,” he added.

This young team need to learn how to put in performances when they don’t feel great. You don’t feel great every time you go on the pitch.

We’ve had some games when we’ve not been able to perform as well as we like but that’s a learning curve and the boys will improve over the next couple of years… hopefully the rest of the season.

Midfielder Jesse Lingard will miss the Alkmaar game after sustaining a knock against Manchester City, but Marcos Rojo, Diogo Dalot and Nemanja Matic are in line to return.

Manchester United must avoid defeat by the Dutch side to top Group L.

Solskjaer added that he was hopeful Frenchman Pogba will recover from his ankle injury before the end of the year.

“Let’s get him fit and back in form. He’ll play loads of games. He’s one of the best players in the world and we’re looking forward to having him back,” he added.

(Edited by: Joseph Edeh and Olawale Alabi)
(NAN)
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Anthony Joshua to present world championship belts to Buhari soon

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World boxing heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will soon present his belts to President Muhammadu Buhari, a presidential aide disclosed on Wednesday in Abuja.

Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, made the disclosure while briefing State House correspondents on behalf of the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the briefing took place after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday in Abuja.

Akande however said the date for the presentation of the belts was yet to be fixed.

The Minister of Sports announced that Anthony Joshua will be presenting his belts to the President in a matter of days.

The Council members also expressed appreciation for the gift of books from the Vice President which has become an annual tradition,’’ he said.

NAN reports that Joshua, a Nigerian-British boxer, beat Mexican-American boxer Andy Ruiz Jr. through a unanimous points decision in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

The victory helped him to reclaim the IBF, WBO, WBA and IBO heavyweight world championship belts he lost to Ruiz Jr. in June.

(Edited by: Olawale Alabi)
(NAN)
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NOC sets up 4-man committee on AFN crisis

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The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) on Wednesday in Abuja set up a four-man investigative panel to mediate in the crisis rocking the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN).

Phemmy Adetula, the NOC Public Relations Officer (PRO), said the decision was taken at the board meeting the NOC held ahead of its ongoing 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Abuja.

The panel has Francis Orbih, the President of Badminton Federation of Nigeria, as chairman with Margaret Binga, the President of Taekwondo Federation of Nigeria, and Toyin Aluko, a co-opted NOC Exco member, as members and Emmanuel Nweri of the NOC Secretariat as secretary,” he said.

Adetula said the NOC could not afford to close its eyes to recent happenings in the AFN, especially as we head towards the year 2020, an Olympic year.

The Olympic Movement, or the Olympic Solidarity, is known for peaceful co-existence. So, for this simple fact, the athletics federation as a body overseeing an important sport like athletics is very special.

This goes for other federations in the country.

So, they must enjoy a peaceful environment, without any rancour, as they prepare for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan next year.

He said the committee was mandated to submit a report on its findings within “the shortest possible time” to NOC.

OLAL

(Edited by: Olawale Alabi)
(NAN)
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Committee expresses determination to host successful Abuja 2020 Para-Powerlifting Championships

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Members of the Main Organising Committee (MOC) of the Abuja 2020 World Para-Powerlifting Championships on Wednesday expressed their determination to successfully actualise the hosting of the global competition in Nigeria.

Cecilia Ezeilo, the Grand Matron of Nigeria Para-Powerlifting Federation, expressed the MOC’s determination in Abuja during a review meeting of the the committee’s various sub-committees ahead of the championships.

She also said the review was necessary as the country was billed to host the world in February 2020 at the Para-Powerlifting Championships.

Ezeilo who is the Enugu State Deputy Governor said there was the need to make concerted efforts towards ensuring all necessary logistics and support were put in place.

”This Para-Powerlifting Championships is the only sporting activity that has lifted Nigeria above board. For over 11 years now, we have had many gold medals and we have been on top of the game in the sport.

”Above every other game of sports, para-powerlifting has kept Nigeria above board. Now because of our performance, the world has moved the Para-Powerlifting Championships to Nigeria.”

She added that the game had drastically changed the perception of some individuals who see people with disabilities as beggars.

”Before now, people see those with disabilities as beggars. But with these children you can see they are unstoppable,” Ezeilo said.

She also expressed her appreciation at her being made one of the members of the MOC.

Also speaking, President of the Para-Powerlifters in Nigeria, Queen Aboh,  said the meeting was aimed at discussing the progress and challenges faced in the preparations towards hosting the championships.

We all know it is not easy to host a world competition and we still have to let them know that we have challenges. But we are confident that those challenges will be overcome,” she said.

Aboh expressed gratitude to the Nigerian First Lady, Aisha Buhari, for supporting the project, saying this has added value to the activities of the MOC.

Dr Sani Hajo, who represented the First Lady and is the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Women Affairs and Administration), said the First Lady was passionate about the game.

Mrs Buhari is ready to support the game, and this is because the game involves the less privileged persons, especially people with disabilities.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that during the meeting, Chairpersons of the various sub-committees took time to explain the progress made so far by their sub-committees.

The sub-committees include those of medical, media, accommodation, insurance and several others.

(Edited by: Emmanuel Nwoye and Olawale Alabi)
(NAN)
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