Keshi Dreams of More Success

STEPHEN Keshi, Nigerian head coach, cut a calm figure while overseeing his side’s training session in Cape Town ahead of their quarter-final match up with Morocco.

The Super Eagles lost their opening match to Mali and were unconvincing in their second game against Mozambique but managed to claim the win to keep their CHAN 2014 campaign alive. They turned the tournament on its head when they dismissed hosts Bafana Bafana in the final match of the group stages on Sunday, to claim the runners-up spot and progress to the quarter-finals.

“The magic was that we simply asked the boys to go out there and play their game without pressure, enjoy your game and be yourself and I think they got that right perfectly against a very difficult opponent,” Keshi said in an interview while reflecting on his side’s heroics.

The former Nigerian captain also hit out at critics of goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim and lauded debutant Obanor Erhun for grabbing his chance in the high-pressure encounter against Bafana. “No one is perfect but we have to work on our imperfections to reach our goals. We brought 23 players here because we believe any of them can fit in when crisis arises and Obanor demonstrated that on Sunday. Other players in the league, whether amateur, national or Premier league should have the belief that they can make the national team once they are good enough, because Obanor has proved it and there are no biases if a player is good,” Keshi said.

 

Mancini’s Legacy at Manchester City

ROBERTO Mancini, former Manchester City, MC, manager, does not anybody to forget his crucial role in building the team that has been riding high in the Premier League this season. And because of that he has played his part in the team’s success this season.

Manuel Pellegrini, current manager of the team has been credited with making the MC, which has scored 106 goals already this season, playing more attacking football.

Mancini
Mancini

But Mancini, now coach of Galatasaray in Turkey, who left the MC last summer, said the players that he bought were responsible for the success of the team. “I am happy that Manchester City is one of the best teams in England because I built this team. The players that score the goals are players that I bought – Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri,” Mancini said.

After Mancini’s departure, the MC recruited the likes of Fernandinho, midfielder, and Alvaro Negredo, striker, who has already scored 23 goals in his first season.

Pellegrini is targeting an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup this season alone. The Chilean boss has secured the MC’s path to the knockout stages of the Champions League, something Mancini failed to do in two attempts.

Former Lazio and Inter Milan boss, Mancini, who joined City in December 2009, guided the team to success in the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League title a year later. But after reportedly falling out with some of his players last season, he said he held no bitterness towards the MC over his sacking last summer, just days after his side were beaten by Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final at Wembley. “When you work, you know you can have some problem with the players, this is normal because the manager wants the players to work hard, play well and the players should understand this. When you change the manager, it is better maybe, because you change the way to work. I think Pellegrini is doing a good job but what is happening now at the Manchester City, we did three years ago. It’s the same,” Mancini said, adding: “I’m very happy about what I did in Manchester, I love the Manchester City supporters and I had a fantastic experience.”

 

Federer knocks Murray out of Australian Open

ROGER Federer, four-time champion Australian Open champion, ended Andy Murray’s hopes of winning the tournament with a dramatic win in the quarter-finals. The Swiss, 32, won 6-3 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 in three hours and 20 minutes to set up a semi-final against Rafael Nadal, world number one tennis player.

Federer had been on the verge of wrapping up a faultless three-set performance but failed to serve out the match, and then missed two match points in the tie-break.

Federer
Federer

Murray was fighting to stay alive in only his second tournament since undergoing back surgery, and saved six break points in a marathon 19-minute game early in the fourth set. But the Scot was constantly playing catch-up and eventually he could no longer hang on, as Federer brought his man into the net at 4-3 and flipped a backhand past the exhausted Scot for the decisive break.

The first two sets saw Federer pick up where he had left off against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Monday, serving magnificently and moving forward at every opportunity. Playing with a larger, more powerful racquet this year, and under the guidance of six-time Grand Slam champion Stefan Edberg, his game was simply too strong for Murray. By the time he closed out the second set, after only 80 minutes, he had been taken to deuce just once on serve.

Murray was unable to dominate from his home turf of the baseline and could not get his return game going when second serves came his way – and his evening looked as good as over when two errors saw him drop serve at 4-4 in the third.

Federer had not faced a break point all evening but, when the moment arrived to close out the match, the 17-time major winner looked more like the fragile player that had slipped down the rankings last year. After smashing away a first break point he fired long on the second, and the crowd came alive as Murray yelled in delight at his unexpected second life.

They headed into a tie-break and again Federer took charge, but once again Murray refused to buckle. Swinging freely from 6-4 down, the Wimbledon champion forced two errors from Federer on match points before powering through to take the set.

The night session on Rod Laver Arena was suddenly electrified as a procession turned into a dogfight, and Murray’s battling qualities made for an absorbing fourth set, but it was Federer’s attacking instincts that eventually prevailed.

A loud “Come on!” echoed around the stadium when the Swiss finally converted his 10th break point of the set and, given a second chance to serve out the match, he did not blink. Federer fired a thunderous ace out wide to seal victory, an 11th consecutive Australian Open semi-final place, and a real chance to win an unprecedented 18th Grand Slam title.

Wood Bids to make History in Qatar Masters

Chris Wood
Wood

ENGLAND’s Chris Wood launched his bid to become the first player to mount a successful defence of the Qatar Masters in Doha on Wednesday. The 26-year-old from Bristol clinched his first European Tour title when he won the tournament last year with an eagle at the final hole.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South Africa’s George Coetzee, who finished joint second, are also, again in the field. Other contenders include Luke Donald and US PGA champion Jason Dufner.

Wood, winner of the Thailand Open in August 2012, is partnering Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke in the first two rounds. “I’m going to try to play a little more internationally this year and this fits nicely into my schedule,” he said.

Donald, former world number one player, is in the group behind with Dufner and Henrik Stenson – who in 2013 became the first man to win the Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup in the same year. Wood’s return to Doha Golf Club will be tinged with sadness following the recent death of his grandfather.

“It’s been pretty tough with my grandfather passing away I was pretty close to him so it’s been a tough week. He was pretty proud of me. It has come round so fast. It’s one of our best events on tour, the course suits me but it’s going to be a new experience for me defending a title,” he said in an interview.

 

Sharp Gets Euro Gold

Sharp
Sharp

LYNSEY Sharp will finally be presented with her 2012 European Championships 800m gold medal at the Glasgow International Match on Saturday, January, 25. The 23-year-old Scot was promoted from silver to gold medal position in 2013 when Russian Yelena Arzhakova was banned for two years for doping.

“It will be a very special moment for me, my family and my support team. It will be even more special on home soil, in front of a home crowd,” Sharp said.

Arzhakova’s ban also meant Sharp moved from bronze to silver position in the 800m at the 2011 European Under-23 Championships. “When I was first told about my upgrade, my reaction to the news was a mixture of disappointment, satisfaction and elation. I was disappointed that another athlete has been discovered breaking the rules and that I was denied the chance to hear my national anthem played in the stadium. But I’m pleased that the system is working, that the athlete in question has been caught,” she said.

Sharp has been sidelined by long-term injury but hopes to prove her fitness in time for this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.