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Leverkusen Set New 33-Match Unbeaten Record, Go 11 Points Clear

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A long-range shot from Robert Andrich took Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen to a 2-1 home win against Mainz on Friday, setting a new German record of 33 games unbeaten.

Andrich’s goal was helped by a goalkeeping mistake from Mainz’s Robin Zentner, who allowed the ball to slip through his hands and into the net.

Leverkusen were nervy and made a number of uncharacteristic errors, but the victory takes them 11 points clear of Bayern Munich in their bid for a first-ever Bundesliga title.

“We have to be honest and say we didn’t play a great game and were a bit lucky to win, but we won’t complain about the three points,” Andrich told DAZN.

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Bayern, who announced their plan to part ways with coach Thomas Tuchel in the summer on Wednesday, host RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen, who have won 29 and drawn four of their 33 games this season, broke the record set by Hansi Flick’s Bayern between 2019 and 2020 — a run which included a Champions League victory.

The week had been dominated by talk of Alonso’s future, amid links to Liverpool to replace Jurgen Klopp, along with the upcoming vacancy in Munich.

Alonso had shut down the rumours, saying any discussion of a return to the clubs he represented during his playing career was “only hypothetical”.

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After the match, Andrich told DAZN “we don’t know anything about it, but we take it in our stride.”

“It’s like rumours about a player. As long as everything works well in the dressing room, they can talk about what they like outside of it.”

Granit Xhaka got the hosts off to the best possible start, thumping in a dipping rocket from the edge of the box after just three minutes, his first goal in Leverkusen colours.

“I was under a lot of pressure from my teammates, who reminded me I hadn’t scored a goal yet,” Xhaka told DAZN.

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“I’m more than happy and I hope there’s more to come.”

Leverkusen’s elation was short-lived however, with second-bottom Mainz striking back just four minutes later.

Nadiem Amiri, who started the season at Leverkusen before moving to Mainz in search of game time, was the architect of the equaliser, floating in a free kick which rebounded for Dominik Kohr to head in.

Nerveless during their stunning run this season, the goal sucked the momentum out of Leverkusen’s game, with the side’s normally crisp passes missing the target.

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The pressure showed as Jeremie Frimpong and Alonso both saw yellow late in the first half having objected to a decision not to call a foul against the Dutch winger.

Mainz had a golden chance to take the lead early in the second half when the normally reliable Edmond Tapsoba passing directly to Lee Jae-sung, but the midfielder blasted over with the goal beckoning.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, midfielder Andrich took a speculative long shot from outside the box.

Zentner, who had impressively kept Leverkusen at bay throughout the match, made a meal of a routine save, allowing the hosts to reclaim the lead.

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Late in the match, Mainz were reduced to 10 men, Jessic Ngankam shown a straight red for sinking his studs into Xhaka’s calf, just 15 minutes after coming on.

The decision snuffed out Mainz’s hopes of a comeback and ensured Leverkusen took another major step to a first-ever league crown.

AFP

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Copa America 2024: Messi becomes player with most trophies in football history

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Lionel Messi, the captain of Argentina, is now the player in football history with the most trophies.

Messi participated for sixty minutes as his nation defeated Colombia 1-0 in the Copa America 2024 championship game.

The 37-year-old has already won 45 pieces of cutlery throughout his career.

Messi surpasses the initial record of 44 set by former Barcelona colleague Dani Alves.

Messi won six trophies with Argentina, including the Copa America 2021 and Copa America 2024, and 35 club championships during his time at Barcelona.

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In addition to winning eight Ballon d’Or awards, the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist.

Messi added three titles to his collection after joining PSG in 2021: the Trophee des Champions (2022), the Ligue 1 (2021–22), and the 2022–23 championship.

Along with Argentina, he also won the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 Leagues Cup cup with Inter Miami.

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Mbah rewards Rangers with N50m for winning NPFL

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Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, has announced a cash reward of N50 million to Rangers International Football Club of Enugu, winners of the 2023/2024 Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL.

The governor announced this when he treated the Nigerian champions to a state banquet at the Government House, Enugu, during the weekend, thanking them for etching Enugu State on the African and global map.

“We are indeed very proud of you.  I cannot tell you enough what this NPFL title that you have brought right here before us represents and means to us.

“Rangers International transcends generations; it is a unifying factor for us. It is not just about winning a trophy or about making us proud. It is putting Enugu State in the hearts and minds of the people of this country and beyond.

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“You have made us proud and we will in turn also make you happy. We are going to provide the sum of N50 million to you in addition to other non-cash rewards that will implant you in our state and immortalise you,” he stated.

He further said: “I commend the General Manager, who has guided this team with a deep sense of purpose and also fuelled your optimism, reinforcing the ‘Never Say Die’ spirit that you are all known for. I thank most sincerely the coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, who through his professional ethics and consistency, has continued to do us proud.

“The captain and all the players, you are a true embodiment of the ‘Never-Say-Die’ spirit. The fans are not left out. I also commend the commissioner, who has shown deep commitment to the success of Rangers through his tireless efforts and sacrifice.

“However, recall that I had always said to you that success abhors complacency. We still have quite a huge space in our trophy cabinet.”

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So, we still need more. I am sure we are all getting ready for the CAF Champions League and other tournaments.

“Let me assure you that we will never get tired of supporting you.  If anything, we are going to double down and reinforce our support.”

The commissioner for Youth and Sport Development, Barr. Lloyd Ekweremadu, who hailed Rangers for the successful title chase, thanked the governor for his personal and official support that transformed the club.

Also, the general manager and CEO of Rangers International, Amobi Ezeaku, who went down memory lane, appreciated Governor Mbah for taking Rangers as his special pet project.

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“For two years, the club played away from home, but in a twinkle of an eye, the club came back to the Cathedral. That is why 28th  December 2023 when we returned to the Cathedral will forever be engraved in the hearts of not just Ndigbo, but all true lovers of Rangers and football.

“Today, we thank you for easing the stress of our trips, for approving for corporate sponsors to get on board, for coming to watch our matches, and for braving the turbulence of the weather on that day to fly to Jos to witness the lifting of this trophy.

“It is also under you that the Rangers jersey is proudly instituted at the FIFA museum in Zürich, Switzerland. It is under you that the Rangers jersey is now known at the headquarters of African Football in the 6th  of October City, Giza, Egypt. And as we speak, Rangers have been nominated in many categories by the league bloggers award,” Ezeaku said.

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Osimhen need right attitude to play for Napoli, says Conte

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It’s all coming home to roost for Victor Osimhen as Napoli’s new coach Antonio Conte has said that the Nigeria International striker must have the right attitude to remain at the Serie A side.

The 25-year-old Osimhen has been subject of intense transfer speculation over the last few months with potential links to some of the biggest  clubs in Europe including Chelsea, PSG amongst others.

But interest in the player has since waned after Napoli pegged his transfer fee to a mind-blowing €120 million Euros even more so after the player’s  petulant rant against former Super Eagles coach Finidi George.

Speaking specifically about Osimhen at the team’s pre-season training camp in Dimaro on Saturday, Conte reportedly described the Nigerian as  ‘ a top player’,  adding he must continue to work hard with the right attitude to continue his career at Napoli.

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Conte added: “We are talking about Victor as a professional, an excellent, top player.

“I spoke to him and he knows that absolutely nothing has changed. He belongs to Napoli and he knows that those who belong to Napoli have to work hard and have the right attitude, even if there is this sort of agreement, that we still don’t know how it will end.

“He’s here with a smile, and what counts at the moment is the training this afternoon and the attitude with me and my colleagues.”

Conte insisted there were no major developments over a potential transfer for Osimhen, adding  that there is a sort of ‘agreement’ linked to the 25-year-old’s possible departure.

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Though the Nigeria international has been widely tipped for a move away from the Stadio Maradona this summer, Napoli have not yet received any sort of formal proposal from any club.

Napoli would, of course, need to sell Osimhen first if they are to acquire some of their other attacking targets this summer, such as Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku.

Explaining the situation surrounding Napoli’s transfer window, Conte said: “After my signature, the most difficult thing was to realign the whole situation and put Napoli back in the centre of all the important business.

“The situation now allows us to stay one step ahead thanks to everyone here, the club and thanks to the players who have understood. I expressed myself very clearly and with a vision that is hard to go against. Now the club is back in the spotlight.”

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