May 28, 2009

Dejected Ferguson admits "the best team won"

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United lost to the better side as Barcelona secured the Champions League crown in Rome, but he vowed to come back even stronger.

United were bright in the initial exchanges but after Samuel Eto'o opened the scoring after 10 minutes, there was only one team in the game as Barca over-ran their opponents in midfield.

Lionel Messi made it 2-0 after 70 minutes and the Red Devils could muster nothing in response.

Ferguson told Sky Sports 1: "In fairness we were beaten by the best team. We weren't at our best. The first goal was a killer, it was a bad start to the game. If you give them the ball they will keep it all night.

"But the best part of the game is that in adversity you always move forward quicker. We're all disappointed but we're a young team.''

Ferguson added a second striker at half-time, with Carlos Tevez replacing the ineffective Anderson.

Reflecting on that decision, the Scot said: "I brought on Tevez simply because I took the gamble of playing two through (the middle). Ryan Giggs, in the first half, provided something and some parts of his game were good but what we needed was someone to be there all the time.

"But they defended quite well. We had plenty of time and we had some half-chances which we maybe should have done better with.''

Ferguson claimed he was not surprised with the way Barcelona approached the game, even when they swapped Messi from a wide position up front into midfield.

And he put the blame for the loss squarely on his own players.

Ferguson said: "The disappointment was the use of the ball when we got possession. You have to wait minutes to get it back off them. Could be it was an off night. Could be it was a mountain too big to climb.

"We knew what a good football team they were. We had difficulty in defending against them. Messi dropped into midfield and they kept possession and made it difficult for us.''

Cristiano Ronaldo collected a yellow card for a foul on Puyol and it was a disappointing match for the United winger who went close with a couple of long-range shots but too often let his exasperation get the better of him.

Ferguson also admitted United missed the protective presence of Darren Fletcher in midfield who was suspended after being sent off harshly against Arsenal in the semi-final.

"He is one big-game player,'' said Ferguson. "It was a loss but they had losses also. And it is difficult to measure how big a loss it was.

"We've done well to get to the final, but we had to win it. It was a big opportunity for us. With the players we have we expected better, but losing the first goal was decisive for us. We couldn't recover from that.''

Ferguson, however, was generous in his praise of Barcelona and their manager, Pep Guardiola, who also won the Champions League as a player with Barcelona.

"You have to give credit to a very good Barcelona team,'' said Ferguson. "If they get in front of you they are very difficult to beat. They kept possession of the ball and made it very difficult to get back.

"When we did get possession we didn't do well with it. Credit to them, the better team won.''

On Guardiola, who has guided Barcelona to a treble of league title, domestic Cup and Champions League, he added: "It is a great achievement as a coach in his first year. Well done. Fantastic. Everybody enjoys their football and it is great credit to him.''

Veteran United midfielder Ryan Giggs admitted they did not play to their potential and that they were beaten by the better team.

"At times Barcelona can make you look silly because they keep the ball so well,'' Giggs told Sky Sports News. "At times we maybe chased it and didn't keep our shape as well as we should have. But still - we created chances and probably more chances than Barcelona.

"We said whoever turned up on the night would win and that proved to be the case. They turned up and played some great football - we didn't really. I think if we had gone a goal ahead, we're capable of keeping the ball like they are. But credit to them, they deserved it tonight.''

May 25, 2009

Lifeless Newcastle pay the price

Newcastle United have been relegated from the Premier League after a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

Gareth Barry's 38th minute shot deflected off Damien Duff and wrongfooted Steve Harper for the only goal of the game.

Hull City's home defeat by Manchester United meant Newcastle only needed a point to survive but in a limp second half showing they failed to muster a shot on target.

Darron Gibson's superb strike sealed a winning end to Manchester United's season as Sir Alex Ferguson's second string proved too much for the battling Tigers.

Middlesbrough fell 2-1 at Upton Park as their drop to the Championship was confirmed. Goals from Carlton Cole and Junior Stanislas came either side of a Gary O'Neil effort.

Sunderland were beaten 3-2 by Chelsea at the Stadium of Light as Nicolas Anelka secured the golden boot. He lashed home a drive from 20 yards to give the Blues a 47th minute lead but Kieran Richardson equalised instantly.

Salomon Kalou and Ashley Cole re-established Chelsea's lead before Kenwyne Jones grabbed an injury time consolation goal.

Liverpool ended Spurs' Europa League hopes with a 3-1 win at Anfield. Fernando Torres and an own goal from Alan Hutton gave the Reds a strong lead before Robbie Keane scored on his return to Anfield.

A late Yossi Benayoun goal sealed Liverpool's win.

Arsenal thumped Stoke 4-1 at the Emirates. James Beattie's own goal began the rout while Robin van Persie netted twice for the Gunners. Abou Diaby added the other goal. The Potters could only muster a Ricardo Fuller penalty.

Two goals from Leon Osman helped Everton sink Fulham, who qualify for the Europa League, while Jason Roberts' red card was the only incident of note in the goalless draw between Blackburn and West Brom at Ewood Park.

Wigan beat Portsmouth 1-0 at the JJB thanks to Hugo Rodallega's goal.

At Eastlands, Felipe Caicedo's early strike was enough to beat Bolton Wanderers.

Alhaji Ladi Lawal is dead.

Alhaji Ladi Lawal was the Group Managing Director of Daar Communications (owners of AIT, Raypower, Daarsat) and former Chairman of Lagos State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). He died yesterday 23rd May after a brief illness. He has since been buried. He was aged 54. May his soul rest in peace, Amen.

May 6, 2009

Ekiti re-run: INEC declares Oni winner

Segun Oni, an engineer and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) got the nod to return to the saddle in Ekiti State on Tuesday with his declaration as winner of the controversial governorship election re-run.

The Ekiti State Resident Electoral Commissioner and Chief Returning Officer, Mrs Ayoka Adebayo declared Oni as the eventual winner of the re-run poll, which had kept the state on edge in the past few weeks.

Oni defeated his main rival, the Action Congress (AC) candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi, but spontaneous protests from the party’s supporters greeted the PDP victory.

Oni vacated the governorship seat on the order of the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, which ordered re-run of the April 2007 poll in 63 wards across 10 local government areas of the state.
Reading the final results amidst deafening noise by AC and PDP supporters at the Christ’s Girls School Ado-Ekiti, collation center on Tuesday night, Adebayo announced that Oni polled the highest votes, scoring 111, 140 as against Fayemi’s 107,017.

The controversial ballots in Ido-Osi Local Government, which had the PDP candidate scoring 15,939 votes as against AG’s 3,793 votes were the decider.
AC had complained against the results, claiming to have won the legally collated results from three wards, while rejecting those said to have been collated in a police station.
It was alleged that the controversy led to the REC, Mrs Adebayo resigning her appointment and ‘disappearing’ for 48 hours, only appearing later to announce that she was still a “member of the INEC family.”

AC supporters booed as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) official were led out of the collation centre by security agents to prevent them from being attacked.
Earlier, as the results of the four outstanding local governments that were announced AC chieftains, including Niyi Adebayo, former governor of Ekiti and Chief Jide Awe AC state chairman stood up to raise objection on the manner he results were announced.

They pointed out that the results ought to have been announced by Mrs Adebayo herself instead of electoral officers who also acted as the collation officers.
The collation center became rowdy as PDP and AC supporters were shouting on top of their voices.
Despite the plea by Acting Police Commissioner in the state, Yakubu Alkali, the crowd kept shouting “No more rigging.”

The REC, however, appealed to the people that any party dissatisfied with the outcome of the poll should go to court after the announcement of the result.
Earlier, the re-run election in Oye-Ekiti held amidst tight security, but characterized by low voter turnout, as the expected 18,000 votes projected by the political parties for grabs could not be realized.
The number of security men, including police, State Security Service (SSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) could be rated as one security operative to one civilian in the town.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), John Ahmadu, State Director of SSS, Mrs Florence Ikanone and NSCDC boss as well as military personnel were in the town to ensure peace and orderliness.
Voting did not start until after 10 a.m as many natives had fled the town, while those who were around were scared by the heavy security presence.

The apathy displayed by the people of the town, in spite of the heavy presence of various party leaders, was so much that in some wards total votes cast were below 20, especially in Ward 2 Unit 15 where 768 people registered and the total vote cast were 9 with AC having 5, and PDP 4.
The excuse given for that was that most of the voters, who registered in the unit, were students and teachers of Government College, Oye where the polling booth was located.
The election was unique in the sense that the two prominent political parties in the election, AC and PDP, watched each other with eagle eye despite of the presence of security operatives in all the polling booths.

There were controversies in ward 2 as one Segun Ajayi, who was AC’s agent, complained that some people were coming with voter’s cards with blurred photographs, but the presiding officer, Arikwandu Augustine said those who came with blurred pictures were not allowed to vote at the unit.
No fewer than 15 policemen were stationed in each polling station, and no cases of ballot snatching nor stuffing had been reported in the two wards with 36 polling stations.

The leadership of both parties were in the town with the tags of election monitoring agent. The state chairmen of both AC and PDP, Chief Jide Awe and Bola Olu-Ojo respectively were in the town very early.

Former Governor Niyi Adebayo was also accompanied by Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Opeyemi Bamidele, who came in a black Honda CR-V with registration number Lagos LW 766 AAA, to Oye where he (Adebayo) was coordinating the AC agents.
Adebayo and Opeyemi did not leave Ward 1 Unit 9, which Rabiu Garba was the INEC presiding officer until the election was over in the area.