Saturday, 23 February 2013

IGHALO: Ronaldo makes my game better

Granada forward Odion Ighalo has claimed playing against two world class players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi has improve his game this season and vows to lift the team out of relegation waters.
Granada defeated Real 1-0 two weeks ago, when Cristiano Ronaldo headed an own goal, and beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 last time out.
Ighalo put them in front from close range after 26 minutes and they held Barca at bay until just after the restart when Messi reacted quickly after Tono could only parry a Cesc Fabregas shot.

The 23 year ol striker and his club have maintained fine form of recent time and he’s looking forward to consolidating against Celta de Vigo on Sunday.

 “We played better against Barcelona, but we lost. Though we scored first but conceded two goals scored by Messi. All we need to do is to focus on winning again. Playing away to Celta de Vigo will be tough but I believe we can get attain victory at the end. Away game in Spain is always difficult because the fans are so passionate about their team but l think our recent performance will keep us on the track.”
Speaking further on his game, he said: “I am enjoying my game here, l am very much satisfy with my progress so far in the league. I think playing in Spain has helped me to be a better player. Especially playing against the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and other great players in the league have really challenge me a lot to raise my game,” Ighalo added.

CHINWO tasks Keshi for Eagles shirt

Former U-20 star Kennedy Chinwo has called on Super Eagles chief coach Stephen Keshi to take a look his side in preparation for 2014 World cup qualifiers.
Chinwo who turned down a move to the Albania second division side, KS Tomori Berat says he wants to focus on Dolphins this season and hope to lead the club to CAF Champions League.
”I’m happy for the Super Eagles because they were not given any chance in 2013 South Africa, but  they went, saw and conquer. It’s really amazing. Coach Stephen Keshi has made us proud and it is a good thing for local based players and the football in the country.”
He believes that he has something to contribute in the senior national team. “I am aware the coach is still searching for more players and I know l have a contribution to make. I want a chance to show what l can do given my level of experience in the league and at the junior national team. I am also looking forward to helping Dolphins in the new season, we are aiming higher for greatness this season and I believe we can win the league again”.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

EMENIKE: The rise of a 'goal getter'

He’s already been labelled the new Rashidi Yekini. And Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike has begun to prove his national team coach Stephen Keshi right with a glut of goals for both his country and his club, Spartak Moscow. And, unlike the late Yekini, who was a revered but modest man, Emenike has 100 per cent belief in his ability.

At 25, the time is right for him to emulate one of Nigeria’s biggest footballing legends – with Liverpool, Chelsea and Juventus linked to the forward.

AFCON 2013 will be a memorable one for Emenike and his family as he helped Nigeria win the African Cup of Nations for the first time in nearly 20 years, scoring four goals along the way and being named the tournament’s top goalscorer.

From the town of Otuocha, in southern Nigeria, when Emenike started training with his new team it took him more than an hour – on foot – to get there. He began to bang in the goals for Delta, although it was clear his talents lay elsewhere. Europe was too high a standard, too soon, so Emenike headed to South Africa with Mpumalanga Black Aces, in the National First Division. Three goals in seven games was enough for FC Cape Town to sign him, in May, 2008.

Despite scoring just once in 16 games, Emenike was on the move a year later, but this time to Europe, as Kardemir Karabükspor took him to Turkey. His goals fired the northern Turkish team to the country’s top division and he won the league’s best foreign player. Emenike goals continued in the top flight – he hit 14 – which was when giants Fenerbahçe took notice. In the summer of 2011, the Istanbul club signed him for around £7 million. Yet Emenike, who’d won his first Nigeria cap in the January of the same year, ran into big trouble with his new club. Fenerbahçe become embroiled in a huge match-fixing scandal.

According to the case indictment, it was alleged that Fenerbahçe officials had fixed a game against Karabükspor, demanding that Karabükspor not name Emekine in their team and that he be transferred to Fenerbahçe after the match.  He lasted just six weeks in Istanbul – without making an appearance – and joined Spartak for the same fee as he’d joined Fenerbahçe. It wasn’t an easy first few months for Emenike in the Russian capital.

Emenike started life in Russia with a bang, thanks to some important goals in the Moscow derbies –
 African players, in the main, have taken a while to adjust to life in a country where racism, especially among football fans, is still horribly rife. But the supporters soon took to the striker, who linked up in a formidable partnership with Artyom Dzyuba. He netted his first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw against CSKA Moscow and got his first hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow.

He went on to score 13 times that season, resulting in a new four year deal and an increased buy-out clause – reportedly at $42 million.
However, strife wasn’t too far behind, once again. Emenike was fined for making an offensive gesture towards Dynamo Moscow fans, who’d aimed horrific racist abuse towards him, and he received a red card for mock vein-tapping in preparation for an imaginary heroin injection to celebrate after he scored against Zenit Saint Petersburg.

His electrifying form continued into the current campaign, the player having scored the fastest goals in the history of the Russian League, 10 seconds into a 2-1 win over Alania Vladikavkaz during the opening game of the season.

He also scored in a Champions League qualifying win over former club Fenerbahçe, and then scored a brace in a 3-2 loss against Scottish club Celtic in the Champions League proper.

With his exploits at the 2013 AFCON, he has been linked with a big move to English Premiership club, Liverpool. A nimble and fast striker, Emenike can cope with even the strongest of centre-halves, despite his relative lack of height at 5ft 11in for a perceived target man. Goals seem to come easy for him, providing he receives the right service. A move to Liverpool might seem unlikely, given Luis Suarez’s public announcement that he wishes to stay, as well as the Uruguayan currently playing well with new signing Daniel Sturridge.
Competition for places at Juventus would mean Emenike would spend considerable time on the bench, something which wouldn’t suit a man who came into football late and who is determined to keep on proving himself.

Chelsea may be a more realistic option – if the soap opera surrounding Fernando Torres finally reaches a climax come the end of the season. Should Roman Abramovich reach the end of his tether with the misfiring Spaniard, Emenike would be more of an adequate replacement. The sight of two fast goal getters – him and fellow African Demba Ba – could be enough to see Chelsea shell out for him.

Considering where he’s come from, walking to training from his local town to becoming a hero in Nigeria, don’t bet against Emenike’s raw ambition and determination outweighing Spartak’s desire to keep their star man.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

IGHALO: Granada fans made me better

GRANADA of Spain forward Odion Ighalo is sure his side will not give up their ambition to make a mark in the ongoing Spanish La Liga despite the defeat to Barcelona last weekend.

Granada lost the league cracker 1-2 to table-toppers Barcelona, no thanks to Lionel Messi‘s brace which gave the Catalans the maximum points.
Ighalo, who is enjoying a good run of form, scored his team’s only goal of the match putting them ahead in the first 45 minutes before Argentine wizard Lionel Messi hit a brace to rescue the La Liga leaders and recording his 301st goals for Barcelona.

The former Nigeria U-20 skipper told NationSport that he is optimistic Granada will do well at the end of proceedings as he intends to help his team avoid relegation.

NationSport recalls that Ighalo played a significant role in Granada’s promotion to the elite division two seasons.
“We just need to be focused. We played beautifully against Barcelona, which they attested to,” said Ighalo.

“I am very optimistic that we will finish the season well; we have been experiencing a fine form, and losing to Barcelona will not distract us from our dreams. We didn’t believe Barcelona could defeat us with our form but that is football and that can only motivate us more to go out for the kill in our next game.”

The skillful striker disclosed that playing against top clubs is a challenge and scoring against a team like Barcelona will surely improve his confidence.
He said: “I would have been happier if we had won the game which would have meant a lot to me but notwithstanding, I will keep fighting on for the club.
"I am enjoying my game here and the fans are incredible, and that always make me to give more than 100 per cent.

“If you ask me today what is the secret of my current form here, I will tell you it is the fans. They are so passionate and patient with me even when the goals are not coming; They are wonderful.”

Fans mob EMENIKE at Lagos airport

•Family, friends stage party in his honour

Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) highest goal scorer Emmanuel Emenike (MON) was on Sunday night mobbed by fans at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos as he made to catch a flight to Spain for his club’s pre-season camp.
The striker arrived at the airport in Lagos, at about 10.30 pm in a BMW X6 car alongside close pal Ameobi Okeke, who is also a former U-17 international based in Russia, with police escort, to begin his pre-trip formalities when fans  besieged him for autographs.
The fans, including policemen, other security agents, struggled to take photographs with the Spartak Moscow star. They congratulated him on his feat at the AFCON, thus making it impossible for him to have an easy passage to the departure hall.
A particular fan, Henry Arinze, could not hide his appreciation of Emenike’s contributions to Nigeria’s success, when he hugged the Eagles star for over 10 minutes.

“I came all the way from Apapa just to see him. I was here on Saturday night till 11pm, I saw some of the players going back but I have been waiting to see Emenike; he made me win a bet of N50, 000 against Cote d’ Ivoire that he would score and so it happened,” Arinze said.
An excited Emenike, who gave out cash gifts and football boots to the fans, said: “I am happy for the support and love showed to me. Though it was expected, which was why I decided to come late to the airport, still you can see how excited the fans are about our success. It shows passion for the game here. My message to them is that I will make them happy anytime I come to represent the country and keep my scoring form for the team.”

It was gathered that Emenike’s parents celebrated the success of their son by throwing a party in his honour in their home in far Anambra State.
A ccording to his elder brother, Ebuka Emenike, the celebration was organised by his friends and family members to show their support for him for making them proud.

“I don’t regret the day I gave birth to him,” Emenike’s mother was quoted as saying.
“I thank God that I showed him support at the beginning, if not, I would not have been so proud as I am today. Above all, I will give thanks to God Almighty for what He has been doing in his career. I wish him the best of luck and more.”