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Trossard strikes as Arsenal end Everton curse

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Leandro Trossard

Arsenal finally ended their six-year wait for a Premier League victory at Everton as Leandro Trossard fired the title-chasing Gunners to a 1-0 success on Sunday.

Mikel Arteta’s side had to work hard for their first win at Goodison Park since 2017, with Belgian forward Trossard settling a scrappy encounter midway through the second half.

Arsenal were not at their fluent best but they earned their fourth win in five games this season by matching Everton’s physical approach.

Arteta has warned his players they would only end their Everton curse if they are willing to put their bodies on the line and they rose to that challenge.

After leaving it late to beat Manchester United in their previous game before the international break, this was another tense affair for Arsenal.

But Trossard’s goal lifted unbeaten the north Londoners into fourth place, two points behind leaders Manchester City as they aim to avenge last season’s late collapse in the title race.

Winless Everton remain in the relegation zone as they face up to another relegation battle after narrowly beating the drop in the last two seasons.

Sean Dyche’s team headed into the game on the back of the news that the club is set to have new owners after Farhad Moshiri agreed to sell his 94 percent stake to American investment fund 777 Partners.

The takeover would bring to an end the tumultuous tenure of British-Iranian Moshiri, who first invested in 2016.

Everton’s new owners got an early glimpse into the size of the task facing them as the Toffees suffered a fourth defeat in their opening five league games for the first time since 2005-06.

Arteta, a former Everton midfielder, has no such worries as Arsenal prepare for their return to the Champions League after a six-year absence against PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday.

The Spaniard was rewarded with a clean-sheet from keeper David Raya, who made his Arsenal debut following his move from Brentford as Aaron Ramsdale dropped to the bench.

Raya was one of two changes, with Fabio Vieira making his first start since April in place of Kai Havertz.

Gabriel Martinelli thought he had given Arsenal the lead their dominance deserved when he slotted home from close-range in the 19th minute, but his effort was disallowed for offside against Eddie Nketiah in the build-up.

Gabriel’s pass had bounced off Everton forward Beto when Nketiah was ruled to be interfering with play, much to Arsenal’s disgust.

Adding insult to injury for Martinelli, the Brazilian forward limped off with a muscle injury soon after that incident.

Arsenal were in such total command that Everton went the first half an hour without a single touch inside the visitors’ penalty area.

Everton appealed in vain for a penalty when Abdoulaye Doucoure broke into the area and went to ground under William Saliba’s challenge.

Ben White’s effort was saved by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford, who produced an even better stop to keep out Marin Odegaard’s rocket soon after half-time.

Everton’s Arnaut Danjuma fired onto the roof of the net from distance, but Arsenal finally made their pressure pay off in the 69th minute.

A flurry of passes opened up the Everton defence and Bukayo Saka deftly clipped the ball into Trossard, who guided a composed finish into the far corner for his first league goal this season.

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Nigerian League

There’s a twist’ – Springbok hopeful rejects South African homecoming

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Ruan Ackermann will not be returning to South Africa after signing a contract extension with Premiership club Gloucester Rugby.

 

The powerhouse forward’s contract was expiring at the end of the current season and looked set to return to South Africa but has instead opted to remain in the West Country.

 

The Sharks and his former employers, the Lions, were two of the teams that Ackerman was reportedly in talks with, but ultimately, he decided to remain at the club he joined back in 2017.

“I miss playing in South Africa, I see the stadiums are getting more and more full,” Ackermann told Afrikaans newspaper Rapport in January.

 

But on Thursday, Gloucester and Ackermann revealed that the player had changed his mind.

 

“There is a little twist, I can’t see myself leaving yet, I want to stay on, so we are staying on,” he said in an interview confirming his extension.

 

He added: “The players, the staff, the people, the coaches, everyone has been really good to me. It’s basically like a second home, so that’s what makes things, when it comes to a decision, so tough.”

His re-signing with the Premiership side means that he will head into his eighth season at Gloucester this year, having arrived along with his father Johan, who was head coach at the time.

 

The Kingsholm favourite is consistently one of the top players in the Premiership for carries and metres made and was voted Gloucester Rugby’s Players’ Player of the Season for 2021/22.

 

His ability to play across the back-row, and even at lock, is a huge asset for the Cherry and Whites, with director of rugby, George Skivington, hailing the club’s ability to retain his services.

 

“There was lots of competition for Ruan’s signature, so it’s a huge coup for the Club,” Skivington said.

 

“Ruan has been fantastic for us and to have a player of his quality committing his future to the Club is a massive statement of trust in the direction we are heading in.

 

“Everyone at Gloucester Rugby is delighted that Ruan will be in Cherry & White next season.”

International ambitions

Ackermann is qualified to represent England through residency and his potential move back to South Africa was seen as an attempt to better his chances of cracking the Springboks squad.

 

In fact, he was reportedly on the cusp of making the Red Rose squad before injury struck and ruled him out of the World Cup and a debut in the England jersey.

 

However, he still hopes to make it on the international stage.

 

“I just want to play at the highest level, it’s a dream of mine, but the Springboks are my first choice,” he said in an interview in January.

 

“I feel like I have been here [England] long enough to prove myself, and that chance or option never came. I think they have their eyes on other players.”

 

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Nigerian League

Sunshine Stars unveil Boboye, Oboabona

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Sunshine Stars FC on Thursday in Akure unveiled former Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye and AFCON 2013 winner Godfrey Oboabona as the team’s coach and player respectively.

The club employed the services of the former Abia Warriors and Heartland manager following the sacking of Edith Agoye, who led the team to 14th place in the ongoing Nigeria Professional Football League season.

The appointments were contained in a statement issued by Sunshine Stars media officer, Michael Akintunde.

According to the statement, other technical crew members unveiled alongside Kennedy Boboye include Kayode Julius (chief coach), Nwachukwu Ifeanyi (assistant coach) and John Gaadi (goalkeeper trainer).

Oboabona, a member of the Super Eagles that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, has made a return to the team after playing for various clubs in Europe.

The statement read, “He (Oboabona) is expected to add his wealth of experience to the team as Kennedy Boboye gets set to lead the team back to winning ways.”

Boboye, in his remarks, thanked the management of the team for giving him an opportunity to serve and lead the team again, seeking the corporations of the stakeholders and promised to give his best with the support of everyone.

“I’m glad I’m back home, Sunshine Stars remain in my heart, with God and the collective support of everyone we shall succeed and achieve the desired results,” the coach stated.

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Nigerian League

NPFL Youth league finals hold in Benin

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(NPFL) Youth League

Benin, the Edo State capital has been announced as the host city for the Championship finals of the inaugural edition of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) Youth League.

The zonal qualifiers held in five centres from February 1-3 from where teams emerged for the championship finals.

Chairman of the NPFL YOUTH league Committee, Pastor Emeka Inyama, on Tuesday, confirmed that the championship finals will take place in Benin.

He also announced that the finals will be held from February 24th to March 2nd at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin.

Teams that progressed from the zonal qualifiers are Rangers International from the South East, Rivers United from South South, Remo Stars from the southwest, katsina United from North East/west and Plateau United from North Central.

“We expect the teams to arrive Benin on the 24th, and first rounds of matches will begin on February 25th,” Pastor Inyama told NPFL Media.

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