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Premier League

Gundogan brace takes Manchester City four points clear at top of Premier League

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Premier League - Manchester City v Leeds United - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - May 6, 2023 Manchester City's Erling Braut Haaland hits the bar REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Hard-charging Manchester City went four points clear of Arsenal at the top the Premier League on Saturday, beating Leeds United 2-1 with a pair of near-identical goals from Ilkay Gundogan, stretching their winning league run to 10 games.

City’s prolific striker Erling Haaland graciously handed the ball to Gundogan to take a penalty kick in the 84th minute for what would have been a hat-trick, but Leeds keeper Joel Robles had no trouble turning aside his shot.

Pep Guardiola’s side had run circles around Leeds with numerous excellent scoring chances before Gundogan struck in the 19th minute from the edge of the 18-yard box off a pass from Riyad Mahrez. Mahrez teed up Gundogan again eight minutes later in a carbon copy of his first goal.

“We played an exceptional game,” Guardiola told BBC. “Our possession game was really good. First half was exceptional. We were maybe not as clinical as we should be.

“The second half, we cannot forget it is three games in six days with a lot of mental pressure. At the end, the game could be over with the penalty. But they score and we have to suffer. But we played really, really good.”

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Guardiola had wanted Haaland to take the penalty, yelling: “You take it!”

“The game is not over,” the Spaniard said. “It shows how nice and generous Erling is. If it is 4-0 with 10 minutes left, OK. But at 2-0? Erling is the best penalty taker right now so he has to take it.”

Rodrigo Moreno pulled one back for Leeds in the 85th minute.

With four games left, City have 82 points to Arsenal’s 78, and if the Gunners lose to Newcastle on Sunday, City will be the overwhelming favourites to lock in a third consecutive title.

Leeds, playing their first game under interim manager Sam Allardyce who was parachuted in in a last-ditch effort to avoid relegation, are teetering in 17th place – and all three teams below them have a game in hand.

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Allardyce admitted it looked bound to be a blowout at halftime, but Leeds “changed in terms of pushing up the pitch.”

Despite numerous scoring chances, and with the Etihad Stadium crowd cheering him on, Haaland was unable to extend the Premier League single-season record of 35 goals he set earlier in the week.

The 22-year-old Norwegian, who is running roughshod over the record books in his debut Premier League season, could have had at least a couple of goals on Saturday, clanging one shot off the crossbar, another off the post, and narrowly missing a couple of others that left him shaking his head in frustration.

“Today Erling could have scored two or three goals. He played incredibly well, in his movement and everything… how he fought for us,” Guardiola said.

Treble-chasing Manchester City, who play Real Madrid on Tuesday in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, are unbeaten in 20 games through all competitions.

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The odds were stacked against Leeds, who have been in freefall for weeks and have the leakiest defence in the top flight, with 69 goals conceded in 35 games.

-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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Premier League

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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