No Mercy For Messi As Mbappe Breaks 23 Years Record
Nobody had any doubt that Mauricio Pochettino’s mission as manager of Paris Saint-Germain is to win the Champions League. There’s a long way to go yet, and PSG will face far tougher opposition than this group of Barcelona players, but a 4-1 win at the Camp Nou on Tuesday in the first leg of the round of 16 is a very good way for the Argentinian coach to start. Kylian Mbappe will, deservedly, take most of the headlines, having scored a hat trick, but what was impressive about this PSG performance was that it wasn’t based on individuals, but on a team performance–sensational as Mbappe was within that.
There had been a sense before the game that these were two teams in uncertain form. Barcelona has been improving but sits third in La Liga’s table, and PSG, almost unthinkably, is not currently on top in France’s Ligue 1 after suffering five defeats this season. But the result Tuesday was an open and engaging game of high quality, in which PSG proved its mettle–not just in terms of ability but in having the resilience to come from behind.
Neymar was absent with a groin injury, but his presence hung over the game. His $270 million move from Barcelona to PSG radically altered the finances of football–at least until the pandemic enforced retrenchment across Europe. No transfer since the 1890s had extended the world record by such a percentage, and it’s hard to imagine that mark being broken any time soon.
Losing Neymar was a humiliation for Barcelona, and perhaps also some measure of revenge for PSG for the remontada of a few months earlier, when Barcelona overcame a 4-0 first-leg defeat to beat PSG 6-1 in the second leg. Barça wasted its windfall–neither Ousmane Dembele, although he was involved here, nor Philippe Coutinho, the two big signings landed in the few months that followed, really settled–but even worse was the sense that nothing like that could ever happen again.
The situation was not dissimilar to losing Luis Figo to Real Madrid in 2000, another embarrassment that provoked a spending spree that only compounded the problem. What could not be countenanced was losing Lionel Messi, and so in November 2017 he was signed to a five-year contract worth roughly $167 million a year. Fans and accountants can argue whether that was worth it, but the club is now $1.5 billion in debt and in serious financial trouble. How the club begins to try to come to terms with those issues will largely be decided by next month’s presidential elections.
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In the end on Tuesday, Barcelona’s deficiencies were all too obvious. There may have been improvement recently, but the problems will not rapidly be solved. The first two PSG goals were both the result of balls in behind fullbacks; the issue was less that the fullbacks had pushed up than that there was nobody providing cover. The third goal came from some weirdly bad marking on a set play from Clement Lenglet, who did not have a great night.
Yet Barcelona did, rather fortuitously, take the lead. Messi repeatedly dropped deep in the first half, and PSG struggled to pick him up when he did so. When he clipped a ball for Frenkie De Jong to run onto after 27 minutes, Layvin Kurzawa caught the heel of the Dutch midfielder. The collision was almost certainly unintentional, but the penalty was clear. Messi swept it home emphatically. Almost immediately, Dembele had a glorious Messi-crafted chance to double the advantage but miscued. And with that, the game was gone.
The lead lasted just five minutes, and the equalizer was brilliant. Kurzawa, left mystifyingly untended on the left, swept the ball across the box, Marco Verratti flicked it on, and Mbappe, in his first game against Barcelona, created space with a quick jink past Lenglet before slamming his shot in at the near post.
The main tactical change Pochettino has made in his few weeks at PSG has been to move Verratti further forward. He remains the snarling menace he has always been, but his role now seems more to lead the press, and that in turn pushes Mbappé further forward.
It was a perfectly weighted ball from Leandro Paredes that brought the second goal 20 minutes into the second half, releasing Alessandro Florenzi. Gerard Pique half-blocked his cross, but Mbappe lashed in the loose ball.
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Then, five minutes later, Moise Kean was left alone on a Paredes free kick and headed in at the back post. A slick counter with five minutes remaining, led by Julian Draxler and finished brilliantly by Mbappé the first opposing player with a Champions League hat trick at Camp Nou in over 23 years–made it four.
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BREAKING: PDP Suspends Anyim, Fayose
Former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose; former president of the Senate, Pius Anyim; Prof Dennis Ityavyar and Aslam Aliyu were on Thursday suspended from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP made the suspension on Thursday after an extensive review of the affairs of the party, pursuant to the provisions of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017).
The PDP also referred the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, to the National Disciplinary Committee over his reported involvement in anti-party activities.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba.
“The PDP urges all leaders, critical stakeholders and teeming members of our party across the country to remain united and focused at this critical time,” the statement added.
BREAKING: Ekweremadu, Wife Found Guilty Of Organ-trafficking In UK
A United Kingdom court has found former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, guilty of an organ-trafficking plot, which saw them bring a 21-year-old man to the UK
They were convicted of conspiring to exploit the man from Lagos for his kidney, reports the BBC.
Prosecutors told the Old Bailey the organ was to be removed and given to the couple’s daughter, Sonia, aged 25.
She was cleared of the same charge.
The victim, a street trader from Lagos, was brought to the UK last year to provide a kidney in an £80,000 private transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
They were later arrested at the airport while trying to leave the UK.
NLC Orders Workers To Shut CBN Offices Nationwide Over Naira Scarcity
Worried about the continued scarcity of naira, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has officially declared a nationwide . The national president of the union, Joe Ajaero, gave the directive during a media briefing in Abuja.
Ajaero also directed that affiliate unions constituting the NLC should be on standby for picketing exercises across all branches of the Central Bank of Nigeria nationwide.
The NLC earlier issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to end the petrol and cash scarcity being experienced in the country.
Ajaero told journalists on Wednesday that the industrial action became the last resort of the NLC following the expiration of the ultimatum.
He said the decision to picket the CBN branches became necessary as the federal government and the CBN had failed to show any commitment to addressing the situation.
Ajaero lamented that despite the Supreme Court order that the old N200, N500 and N1000 notes remain legal tender until December 31, 2023, the situation kept getting worse.
He said workers could not access cash to pay fares to work.
He also criticised the pricing irregularities in the petroleum sector.
“Last week, we gave an ultimatum for the review of the cash crunch bedevilling the country, but we have discovered to our dismay that as at this moment not much effort has been made to ameliorate the situation. Government is still foot-dragging on these issues we raised,” Ajaero said.
“Based on this, we met again this morning to review our position and resolved that by Wednesday next week all CBN branches will be picketed. Workers are directed to stay at home too because people cannot eat, workers can no longer go to the office, we have been pushed to the wall.
“We have decided to take our destiny in our hands, we have mobilised our workers on this exercise.”
The NLC has no fewer than 43 affiliate unions which include, but not limited to, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners, and the National Union of Road Transport Workers.
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