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‘No hope’ for Arsenal in title race – Odegaard gives up

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Martin Odegaard admitted Arsenal’s Premier League title dreams are over after Sunday’s 3-0 defeat against Brighton put Manchester City on the verge of being crowned champions.

Gunners captain Odegaard was devastated by his team’s second half capitulation as Julio Enciso, Deniz Undav and Pervis Estupinan netted in front of the stunned Emirates Stadium crowd.

City will win the title for the fifth time in six seasons, and for a third year in a row, if Arsenal lose at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Even if Mikel Arteta’s second-placed side beat Forest, the title will still go to City if the leaders win at home to Chelsea on May 21 or take three points in their other two matches at Brighton and Brentford.

Asked if the title race is over, Odegaard said: “Yeah it feels like that. It is going to be very difficult now we have to be honest. It is tough to take.

“It is not a good feeling at the moment. The way we played, particularly in the second half, I don’t know what happened to be honest. It feels like there is no hope now.”

After leading the table for long periods, Arsenal have blown their bid to win a first title since 2004.

A run of just two victories in their last seven games has proved decisive, with City racing to the finish line with a long winning streak.

Despite their late collapse, Norway midfielder Odegaard insisted his young team-mates had been mentally tough enough for the pressure of the title race.

“We wanted to come here and continue like we have in the last two games, get a good result and keep pushing. It is a big disappointment,” he said.

“In the first half we did a lot of good things and had moments to create big chances but we gave them more and more momentum in the second half.

“I don’t think mentality was an issue. We were good going into the game but in the game was a different story and we have to accept it and learn from it.”

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Enyimba docked three points, fined N10m for disrupting game against Rangers

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The board of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) has sanctioned Enyimba FC with forfeiture of three points and goals for refusing to conclude the match against Enugu Rangers on Sunday.

The NPFL matchday 35 fixture was abandoned in added time after Rangers were awarded a controversial penalty at the Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium in Enugu.

After 90 minutes, with the game tied goalless, the home team got the spot-kick seven minutes into added time following a foul that prevented its attacker from pouncing on a loose ball in the box.

The decision prompted protests from Enyimba players who confronted the match officials.

However, the incident took another dimension when fans invaded the pitch, resulting in Enyimba players walking off it.

It remains unclear which fans encroached on the pitch, but efforts to resume play proved abortive.

In a letter addressed to Enyimba on Monday, NPFL said the club’s action “goes against the principles of fair play, sportsmanship, and the league rules and is capable of bringing the game to disrepute”.

The team was also penalised N10 million for failing to ensure the proper conduct of its players, disrupting the NPFL live broadcast, and causing the disruption and discontinuation of the match.

Three Enyimba players — Eze Ekwutoziam, Chibuike Nwaiwu and Akanni Elijah — are under investigation for further sanctions.

“An order forfeiting 3 points and three goals in favour of your opponent refusing to allow the penalty awarded in favour of your opponents to be taken, thereby disrupting the match and bringing the game to disrepute,” the letter reads.

“An order for Enyimba to identify and produce for further investigation and appropriate sanctions, other players and officials complicit in the disruptive conducts (particularly against the match officials) that led to a discontinuation of the game, in addition to the following identified players; Eze Ekwutoziam (Jersey No.6), Chibuike Nwaiwu (Jersey No.27), and Akanni Elijah (Jersey No.10).”

Similarly, NPFL charged Rangers with “over-ticketing, which led to overcrowding” and failing to provide adequate security and crowd control measures during the match.

The team got a cumulative N5 million fine for all the breaches incurred.

Both clubs must respond to their penalties within the next 48 hours.

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We’ll fight hard to qualify for World Cup, Super Eagles assure Nigerians

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The Super Eagles of Nigeria have pledged “to fight hard till the end” to ensure the team qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

The team have been in uninspiring form through the opening stage of the World Cup qualification campaign.

The Eagles’ run of poor results has condemned them to fifth place in Group C of the qualifiers, with just three points from four games.

The latest disappointing performance was the 2-1 loss to the Benin Republic on Monday. The team had drawn its previous games against Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Many Nigerians, particularly on social media, were critical of the Eagles and the team’s technical staff over the results.

John Enoh, minister of sports development, described the results as “unacceptable”.

He summoned the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to “give cause why there mustn’t be consequences for the disappointment caused both government and the generality of Nigerians”.

Reacting to the feedback, the Eagles, in a tweet on the team’s official X account on Tuesday, said they do not take the support of Nigerians for granted and have “resolved” to the “impossible.”

The players added they are also unhappy with the results and are ready to turn their fortunes around.

“We are back in the country and we are not happy about the way the two games panned out,” the tweet reads.

“We have had talks among ourselves and have resolved to fight hard till the end to ensure we do the impossible, which is qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. We don’t take your support for granted, we thank you immensely.”

The World Cup qualifiers will resume in March 2025, with Nigeria travelling to Rwanda before hosting Zimbabwe.

The team will then host the return leg of the Rwanda encounter before playing South Africa away in September 2025.

The Eagle will travel to Lesotho before welcoming the Benin Republic for the final game of the qualifiers in October 2025.

Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after losing to Ghana in the play-off.

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‘We gave them new version’ — NFF blames Benin FA for national anthem mix-up

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The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has blamed the Benin Republic Football Federation (FBF) for the mix-up during the recitation of the Nigerian national anthem at the World Cup qualification game on Monday.

The organisers played the Nigerian old national anthem at the beginning of the match, which was played at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

President Bola Tinubu signed a bill reintroducing the old national anthem on May 29.

The reintroduced national anthem, initially adopted from 1960 to 1988, used the theme ‘Nigeria, We Hail Thee,’ while the version used from 1978 to early 2024 was titled ‘Arise, O Compatriots.’

The footage of Super Eagles players singing gleefully to the old anthem went viral on social, eliciting reactions.

Addressing the mishap in a statement, NFF said Dayo Anchor, its head of international competitions, “handed a recording of the new national anthem of Nigeria” to members of the Benin FA on Sunday.

The Nigeria football governing body added that there was protest after the mix-up, and the new anthem was played at the beginning of the second half.

“We gave them the recording of our new national anthem, only for them to play the wrong one at the beginning of the match,” the statement reads.

“We protested strongly, and insisted that the Super Eagles would not start the second half until the new national anthem of Nigeria was played.”

The Eagles lost the match 2-1 to the Benin Republic. Raphael Onyedika had put Nigeria ahead, but goals from Jodel Dossou and Steve Mounie upended the game.

The team is fifth in the qualification group with three points from four games, above only Zimbabwe, which has a game in hand.

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Bodex F. Hungbo, SPMIIM is a multiple award-winning Nigerian Digital Media Practitioner, Digital Strategist, PR consultant, Brand and Event Expert, Tv Presenter, Tier-A Blogger/Influencer, and a top cobbler in Nigeria.

She has widespread experiences across different professions and skills, which includes experiences in; Marketing, Media, Broadcasting, Brand and Event Management, Administration and Management with prior stints at MTN, NAPIMS-NNPC, GLOBAL FLEET OIL AND GAS, LTV, Silverbird and a host of others

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