Sevilla’s sixth Europa League triumph in a thrilling final over Inter Milan ensured a Spanish side won one of Europe’s two major competitions for the 10th time in 12 seasons, even in a lean year for La Liga giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Inter were favourites to end Italy’s decade without a major European prize since they won the Champions League in 2010.
But despite amassing almost an entirely new team over the past year with annual revenues of 230 million euros ($271 million) less than the Nerazzurri, Sevilla’s capacity to upset the odds in the Europa League came through once more in a memorable 3-2 victory in Cologne.
All six of Sevilla’s titles in the competition have come in the past 15 years as the mastery of sporting director Monchi in the transfer market and an unshakable belief despite the annual churn of players and a high turnover of coaches has allowed the Andalusians to form a fearsome foursome from La Liga in European competitions.
“Never give up is written on our hearts,” said Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui, himself in his first season with the club.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have each won four Champions Leagues and Atletico three Europa Leagues, alongside two Champions League finals appearances, in the past 15 years as Spanish clubs have swept up 17 of the last 29 major European trophies.
But Sevilla’s success is the most striking without the financial muscle of Barca and Madrid or the stability Atletico have enjoyed in the eight years since Diego Simeone’s arrival as coach.
Victory over Inter continued an incredible record of La Liga clubs against non-Spanish opponents in UEFA finals, with 15 consecutive wins stretching back to 2001.
Sevilla have contributed five of them with their only win over a domestic opponent coming against Espanyol in 2007.
The lone survivor from that side, Jesus Navas, proudly lifted the trophy as captain in Cologne on Friday night.
Also in his second spell at the club, Navas is a perfect illustration of how Sevilla punch above their weight.
A product of the club’s youth academy, the winger won two Europa Leagues and was part of the side that has come closest to winning La Liga over the past two decades in 2006/07.
As with most of Sevilla’s stars he was sold on, moving to Manchester City for £15 million in 2013, where he never reached the same heights and was derided for his delivery from wide areas.
He returned to Sevilla on a free transfer three years ago and has earned a recall to the Spanish national team thanks to his performances as a right-back.
Despite his deeper position, Navas set up Luuk de Jong’s winner against Manchester United in the semi-finals and provided the cross for the first of the Dutchman’s double against Inter.
De Jong himself was discarded by Newcastle and Borussia Monchengladbach before arriving in Andalusia for 12.5 million euros last summer.
Ever Banega ran the game in his final game against his former club who let the Argentine return to Sevilla after one season at the San Siro.
“The philosophy of the club is to try to be close to the player, to help the person and not just the footballer adapt as quickly as possible,” Monchi told AFP of the secrets to Sevilla’s success. “The quicker they adapt, the quicker they can develop their talent.”
A fourth-place finish in La Liga had already guaranteed a return to the Champions League next season, where they have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals.
Monchi admitted that is the “next goal” as they seek inspiration from Lyon and Leipzig’s run to the last four this season.
But it is the Europa League where they feel most at home. As the slogan emblazoned on Sevilla’s dressing room wall on Friday read: “No one wants it like us.” And they tend to get what they want.
Sheikh Hassan Team, Ganaja, Ultimate FC, Crowned Winners Of The Maiden Sheikh Hassan Unity Cup In Lokoja
…Organizer Promises Sustenance of the Competition.
By Joshua Adinoyi, Lokoja
The Confluence Stadium, Lokoja was on Friday 5th March 2021 agog with jubilant football lovers from within and outside the State Capital to grace the finals of the 2021 Maiden Sheikh Hassan Unity Cup.
The competition which started with 11 teams from the three Senatorial Districts of the State saw Sheikh Hassan team emerged winner while Ganaja FC and Ultimate FC emerged first and second runner up of the competition.
The Sheikh Hassan team were crowned champion after defeating Ganaja FC 5-3 in a penalty shootout.
The two teams, despite showcasing skills were unable to convert chances at the regular time, leaving supporters on their feet all through.
A superb catch by the Goalkeeper of Sheikh Hassan team, David Achimi and a poor kick from a player of Ganaja FC that went over the bar was enough to seal the needed victory for the organizer’s team.
Speaking with the organizer of the competition, Sheikh Hassan Mikhail (Abejukolo) whose joy knows no bound over the victory recorded by his team, appreciated Almighty Allah for the enablement to bring youths together and engaged them in profitable venture.
Sheikh Hassan said the competition “Sheikh Hassan Unity Cup” was organized to foster unity, promote peace and as well, help youths showcase their talents in the round leather games.
“One thing I’ve always craved for is seeing people coexisting peacefully irrespective of tribe and football is one of the major platforms that has provided such opportunity. Football knows no tribe, religion and ones background does not matter on the field of play because all that matters is playing as a team and emerge victorious at the end of the day”
“I am glad that Allah used me as a tool to bring about this competition, seeing youths from across the three Senatorial Districts of the State displaying football skills on the pitch, hearing spectators jubilating and cheering their various teams really gives me joy. I once again thank Allah for using me to put smiles on the faces of others through this competition”
Speaking on the victory of his team, he said “it was Allah’s wish that we emerge winner of the competition because many teams started the competition but they couldn’t make it to the finals but we made it to the finals and as well won the trophy. Allah be praised”
Sheikh Hassan explained that there was need for youths to find their talent and build their lives around it, stressing that not all human have been destined to engage in white collar jobs.
He enjoined political office holders, cooperate organizations and well-to-do individuals in Kogi State to go all out and get youths engaged in profitable ventures such as football competitions, entrepreneurship skills, musical competition among others for the betterment of the society.
Sheikh Hassan hinted that plans are on to sustain the competition and charged teams that took part in the Maiden edition to continue to build their talents, pointing out that preparation is the bedrock of success.
The competition featured presentation of trophy as cash of 50,000, 30,000 and 20,000 were given to Sheikh Hassan Team, Ganaja FC, Ultimate FC respectively and other football kits by the organizer, Sheikh Hassan Mikhail.
Manchester City Thrash Liverpool To End 18-Year Anfield Hoodoo
Manchester City ended an 18-year wait to beat Liverpool at Anfield in style with a 4-1 win on Sunday to take a firm grip on the Premier League title race.
Ilkay Gundogan scored twice and missed a penalty as Pep Guardiola’s men moved five points clear of Manchester United, with a game in hand to come, at the top of the table.
A third consecutive home defeat leaves Liverpool 10 points off the top in fourth, having also played a game more than City.
Raheem Sterling and the outstanding Phil Foden were also on target for the visitors on a day to forget for Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who was at fault for three of City’s goals.
After a club record-breaking run of 68 league games unbeaten at Anfield, Liverpool have now lost three consecutive home league games for the first time since 1963.
The margin of defeat was also the Reds’ biggest in the Premier League era as City landed a knockout blow to their title defence.
City’s club record run of 14 consecutive wins, 10 of which have come in the league, has seen them pull away from the pack at the top of the table from what seemed a wide-open title race just a few weeks ago.
That run is reminiscent of the City and Liverpool sides at their best over the past three seasons as they have ran up record points tallies in combining to win the last three league titles.
However, Liverpool appear to have run out of gas in an injury-hit campaign after ending a 30-year wait to win a league title by taking City’s crown as champions last season.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp again paired midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson together at centre-back, despite new loan signing Ozan Kabak being available on the bench.
The Liverpool backline had been rarely tested until Sterling ran at them eight minutes before the break and the former Reds winger was upended by Fabinho.
Kevin De Bruyne missed a penalty for City when the sides met earlier in the season, while Riyad Mahrez blazed over from the spot in a 0-0 draw at Anfield in 2018 – the only time Guardiola had previously avoided defeat away to Liverpool as City manager.
The Catalan threw his arms up in disgust as Gundogan also failed to hit the target as his spot-kick flew well over the bar.
Not for the first time in City’s fine run, Guardiola started without a recognised striker, but a half-time tinkering of his formation to push Bernardo Silva closer to Foden in attack paid immediate dividends.
Another purposeful burst from Sterling fed Foden and after his low shot was saved by Alisson, Gundogan this time made no mistake on the rebound to score his seventh goal in 11 league games.
City had conceded just twice in their 13 league games, thanks in large part to the formidable partnership of Ruben Dias and John Stones in central defence.
In contrast, Liverpool had not scored at Anfield in over six hours until a rare error from Dias handed the champions a lifeline just after the hour mark.
The Portuguese’s attempted clearance was blocked by Mohamed Salah, who was then pulled down by Dias.
Salah has not missed a penalty for Liverpool since 2017 and made no mistake when he fired straight down the middle.
But Liverpool could not build on that reprieve as the normally dependable Alisson gifted away two goals in comical fashion.
The Brazilian cleared the ball straight to Foden, who wriggled clear inside the area before squaring for Gundogan to tap home his second off the underside of the bar.
Seconds later, Alisson’s confidence seemed to have gone as another wayward attempted clearance picked out a City player as this time Silva crossed for Sterling to score his first goal at Anfield since leaving Liverpool six years ago.
Foden then completed the rout and an outstanding personal performance with a blistering shot seven minutes from time that also escaped Alisson’s grasp.
“Covid-19 Has Caused A Lot Of Set Back To Sporting Activities Across The Globe” – Mr. Sylvanus
By Our Reporter, Lokoja.
The Permanent Secretary, Kogi State Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sylvanus Akpama, says the advent of the dreaded Corona Virus across the Globe has caused a lot of havoc to sporting activities.
In an interview with Globaltimesnigeria.com in his Office in Lokoja, he said most sports involves body contact with opponents, saying that the social distance rules to avoid the spread of Covid-19 has affected the sector.
“Covid-19 has affected sporting activities greatly. Infact, we are one of the most hit sector in the world because sporting activities requires large gathering of sportsmen/women, officials and of course, spectators. So, judging from the nature and design of sports and Covid-19 protocols, you will know that obviously, the sector has really been hit so much”
The Permanent Secretary explained that in Nigeria, the highly anticipated National Sports Festival tagged “Edo 2020” was postponed due to the pandemic, stressing that an end to the global scourge will do the sector a lot of good.
“Driving the point back home, our National Sports Festival that every States prepared for with athletes in high spirits to showcase what they are made of was postponed because of Corona Virus. Since the advent of Covid-19, we’ve not really had a major sporting event in Nigeria. But in this 2021,we are very hopeful of revived sporting activities across the Country and get our athletes back on track”
Mr. Sylvanus Akpama however enjoined sportsmen and women, particularly those in Kogi State to continue to keep fit, adding that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
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