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Premier League

Liverpool edge struggling Forest 3-2 in Anfield thriller

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Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah were on target as Liverpool edged Premier League strugglers Nottingham Forest 3-2 in a riveting clash at Anfield on Saturday to climb to seventh in the table.

All the goals came in an action-packed second half, with Jota heading in the opener from a corner in the 47th minute, before Forest drew level when former Liverpool fullback Neco Williams ran on to Morgan Gibbs-White’s pass to send a deflected shot past Alisson.

Jota restored Liverpool’s lead with a sharp finish on the turn in the 55th minute but Liverpool were pegged back again when Virgil Van Dijk’s clearing header fell to an unmarked Gibbs-White.

Both Forest goals came from long throw-ins and Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp was pleased with the result but frustrated by his side’s shaky defensive performance against a team who have the second-worst attacking record in the league.

“It was a difficult game against a low block,” Klopp said. “All this chaos around the throw-ins you have to try to avoid.

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“Too many situations, we couldn’t clear properly but apart from that I am really pleased.”

Liverpool sealed the win three minutes after Forest’s second when Trent Alexander-Arnold picked out Salah with a low free kick and the Egyptian striker held off Remo Freuler before side-footing past Keylor Navas.

Forest twice came agonisingly close to snatching a draw when Taiwo Awoniyi sent an acrobatic effort over the bar and substitute Brennan Johnson hit the crossbar with a delicate chip, but Liverpool clung on to take all three points.

Liverpool went into the match in high spirits after crushing Leeds United 6-1 earlier in the week but struggled to break down a packed Forest defence in the opening period.

“I think it was really important to win and follow up the last win,” said Jota, who now has four goals in two games after failing to score in his previous 32 appearances for the club.

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“We need to improve defensively but offensively we were almost perfect.”

Steve Cooper set up Forest with a flat back five, looking to contain Liverpool, and the strategy worked in the first half, though the visitors rode their luck at times.

Alexander-Arnold carved out Liverpool’s first clear chance in the 26th minute when he found Van Dijk with a free kick that the Dutchman headed goalwards only to be denied by a sharp save from Navas.

The Liverpool fullback has come in for criticism for his defensive performances this season and Klopp’s solution has been to move him into midfield when Liverpool are on the ball, a role Alexander-Arnold seems to be relishing.

He found Cody Gakpo from a corner on the half-hour mark but the forward’s first-time effort was cleared off the line by Williams and he also picked out Jota with a free kick that the striker headed into the side netting as the scores stayed level at halftime.

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It was Alexander-Arnold’s corner that led to Liverpool’s opener soon after the restart, setting them on their way to their fourth unbeaten game in a row as Klopp’s men moved on to 50 points, one behind sixth-placed Aston Villa.

Defeat saw Forest drop to second-bottom in the table.

-Reuters

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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