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Premier League

Iheanacho, Ndidi swim out of relegation waters with Leicester’s   with comeback win over Wolves

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Leicester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers - King Power Stadium, Leicester, Britain - April 22, 2023 Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates scoring their first goal with Patson Daka REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Leicester City came from behind to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 with goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Timothy Castagne on Saturday to snap a 10-match run without a victory in all competitions and keep alive their Premier League survival bid.

Leicester had claimed one point from their previous nine league games and the long-awaited victory moved Dean Smith’s side out of the drop zone and up to 17th with 28 points — above Everton on goal difference. Wolves are 13th with 34 points.

Smith, who was appointed manager until the end of the season after Leicester sacked Brendan Rodgers, celebrated his first home match with a win despite the absence of playmaker James Maddison who missed the game due to illness.

“It was a hard-fought victory. I thought we created the bigger chances in the game. We started well, had a tough period and showed a lot of character in that second half,” Smith told the BBC.

Leicester were the better team in the opening stages but Wolves scored first against the run of play when Mario Lemina pinched the ball from an unsuspecting Youri Tielemans before finding Matheus Cunha who fired home in the 13th minute.

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Leicester hit back seven minutes before halftime when Jamie Vardy was brought down in the box by goalkeeper Jose Sa and Iheanacho stepped up to calmly slot the penalty past the Portuguese keeper after sending him the wrong way.

“A lot of the goals we have given away, looking back at them, have been individual mistakes. From then up until the penalty their movement was sharper and brighter than ours,” Smith added.

Patson Daka had the opportunity to give Leicester the lead on a counter-attack 10 minutes into the second half but Sa was up to the task to keep him out with a reflex save while Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s shot from the rebound went over the bar.

Leicester’s sustained pressure finally paid off after 75 minutes when full back Victor Kristiansen found space down the left flank and cut the ball back for Castagne, who finished first time to give the home side the lead.

“You could see the fans were happy because we tried to play better football than before, more aggressive,” Castagne said.

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“That is a big one today, everyone was thinking it was going to be tough. We have a bit more confidence and know we can do it.”

Leicester survived a VAR check for a handball in the box late in the game while the King Power Stadium crowd held their breath in the 88th minute when Wolves won a free kick and Ruben Neves stood over the ball.

But goalkeeper Daniel Iversen dived well to deny the midfielder’s shot that was heading for the top corner.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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