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UCL: Barcelona’s Hope Of Knockout Stage On The Brink

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UCL: Barcelona's Hope Of Knockout Stage On The Brink

Barcelona’s hope of advancing from Group E of the 2021/22 Champions League are uncertain after a 0-0 draw with Benfica on Tuesday night at the Camp Nou.

While the Catalans are still second place in the group and two points ahead of the Portuguese club, Barcelona must now travel to Munich to face nemesis Bayern on the final matchday, while Benfica will take on Dynamo Kyiv.

Xavi went with a starting XI that saw Yusuf Demir start up top in attack, while Clement Lenglet was given the nod at centre-back with Gerard Pique.

Barcelona started strong and had a trio of chances in the first half hour, including efforts from both Demir and Jordi Alba that were saved by Odisseas.

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen also had to be on his toes to deny Roman Yaremchuk later in the half, followed by a stinging effort from Demir that rang off the crossbar.

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Sets New Record With Goal Against Villarreal

The rain only got heavier as play drifted into the second half, in which Memphis Depay had the first opportunity of the second stanza to break the deadlock, but was cut off by Benfica defender Nicolas Otamendi.

Ousmane Dembele was brought on for Demir to spark the attack midway through the second half and nearly crafted a goal with a cross that floated to Frenkie de Jong, who spun a header that was tipped over the crossbar by Odisseas.

Moments after a Ronald Araujo volley was annulled due to offside, Sergino Dest and Eric Garcia were brought on for Lenglet and Araujo, as Barcelona made one final push for a goal.

A Dembele effort had to be cleared off the goal line, while a stoppage time Gerard Pique header sailed wide.

But, it was a Benfica break that should have yielded a goal, only for Haris Seferovic to fire wide with just Ter Stegen to beat.

In the end, Barcelona were left to rue their missed chances and grapple with what will be a difficult final matchday trip to Germany.

 

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FG Approves January For National Sports Festival 

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Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun

The Federal Government has approved January, 2025 as the official date for the 22nd edition of the National Sports Festival, tagged “Gateway Games, Ogun 2024.”

In a communique released after the first National Council on Sports, held at the Old Government Lodge, Abakaliki Road, Enugu, Enugu State, the Minister of Sports Development, Sen. John Owan Enoh extolled the government of Ogun State for its commitment to the successful hosting of the festival.

He noted that the National Sports Festival plays a vital role in national unity, as it would also increase the socio-economic growth for the sustainable development of the state and the country in general.

The minister also urged the federal and state governments to bid and host national and international sports competitions to fast-track the growth of sports in the country.

He urged all key stakeholders to play active roles towards the successful hosting of the Gateway Games, saying the Council of Sports is in support of the establishment of Sports Development and Investment Fund (NSIDF) with its attendant benefits for driving sports development in Nigeria.

While fielding questions from journalists shortly after the meeting, Ogun State Commissioner for Sports Development, Hon. Wasiu Isiaka revealed that the state government is ready to host the National Sports Festival.

He submitted that the NSF has the ability to bring people together, to foster teamwork and cooperation and instil values of discipline and perseverance in humans, and encourage the vast youthful population in the state to embrace the power of sports in community development.

He stated further that targeted funding and incentives are crucial for driving grassroots sports engagements and ensuring the sustainability of sports programmes in the state.

“Through the power of sports, we have the opportunity to come together, forge connections, and celebrate our shared humanity. We are leveraging  the Building Our Future Together Agenda, of the Governor, to develop sports at the grassroots,” he said.

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Barcelona Shows Xabi The Exit Door

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By John Michael Ojo

Spanish football giant, Barcelona has relieved Xavi Hernandez of his role as the head coach of the club.

This was revealed by the club via its official website on Friday.

The statement reads in part: “Today Friday, FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta has informed Xavi Hernández that he will not be continuing as first team coach in the 2024-25 season.

READ ALSO: Ten Times Barcelona Suffered Heavy Defeats In Champions League Since 2017

“FC Barcelona wishes to thank Xavi for his work as coach, as well as for his inimitable career as a player and as team captain, and wishes him every future success in the world.

“Xavi Hernández will be coaching the team for the last time in Sunday’s game away to Sevilla.”

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Lookman Shines As Atlanta Ends Leverkusen’s Unbeaten Run

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By John Michael Ojo

It was a sensational night for Nigeria Super Eagles forward, Ademola Lookman, who scored a hat-trick to help guide his Italian side, Atalanta to its first-ever Europa League trophy in 61 years after a 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night.

The win also ended the Germans side unbeaten run in all competitions this season after 51 games.

The Bundesliga champions led by former Liverpool and Real Madrid playmaker, Xabi Alonso, had gone unbeaten all through the season, and had become the first team in the German topflight to finish the league season without a defeat.

However, the defeat now means that Alonso’s hope of securing an unbeaten treble this season with the German Cup final yet to be played has now been dashed.

The game which was heavily dominated by the Italian side had Nigeria stars including Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella in action for Leverkusen and Ademola Lookman who was the star of the night for Atlanta.

READ ALSO: FIFA Okays Nigerian-Born England Player To Join Super Eagles

An elated Lookman who was named the player of the match on the night, while reacting to his performance and the victory after the match, simply said: “One of the best nights of my life. Amazing performance from the team, we did it, we did it, we did it! Not got much else to say but yeah fantastic,”

“They do always say third time lucky, so yeah it is for us today [winning a final at the third attempt this season]. I’m just happy we won. We won today so yes very pleased,” he added

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