Chelsea’s Willian Sure Of Champions League Progress

Chelsea’s Willian is confident Antonio Conte’s side can pull a surprise victory in Barcelona after he came close to upstaging Argentine superstar Lionel Messi in their Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge.

Nine years on from a hugely controversial semi-final between the clubs, Andres Iniesta and Messi again did the collaboration for  the Catalans  which ended the first leg of the last-16 tie on a draw giving Barcelona a upper hand in qualification.

These time roles were reversed for Barca’s two all-time greats, with Iniesta providing the pass for Messi to score his first goal in nine attempts against Chelsea after capitalising on a mistake from 21-year-old centre-back Andreas Christensen.

It is not as fatal a blow as when Iniesta fired a late goal into the top corner from Messi’s calm cut-back in 2009 in a match that famously saw the hosts have four penalty appeals waved away by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.

But Conte says his side will need to do “something incredible” in Catalonia in three weeks’ time to progress.

The Italian was left to rue a case of what might have been. His tactical plan to sit deep, cede possession and hit Barca with the pace of goalscorer Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro Rodriguez worked a treat for 75 minutes.

Despite flashes of brilliance, in particular when one slaloming first-half run left Antonio Rudiger tackling thin air, there was always one Chelsea body too many between Messi and the goal for the Argentine to get through.

Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic compared Chelsea’s tactics to a handball team, huddled around the edge of their area.

– Willian outshines Hazard –

But Messi had the final word as Barcelona capitalised on a rare Chelsea defensive error, scoring his first goal against the west Londoners to equalise Willian’s second-half goal with 15 minutes to go.

Hazard had spoken on the eve of the game about having to do more in Europe’s premier club competition to justify comparisons with the five-time World Player of the Year and his eternal Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Instead, it was Willian who shone brightest. The Brazilian sent Barca two huge warnings before the break of his threat from range as he beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen to his right and then his left, only to see both efforts come back off the post.

He finally broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute, arrowing a low shot past the Barcelona goalkeeper following a short corner.

Willian saw enough in Chelsea’s performance at Stamford Bridge to suggest they can upset the odds in the second leg.

“In a difficult game we played very well,” he told the club’s website. “We had to stay compact, we had a plan and we did exactly as we expected.

“They had the ball and we expected to counter-attack, and we could win this game. But we did not and the result is still open, we have to go there and try to win.

“Barcelona had more possession but they did not create more dangerous chances to score. We can go there and make the game.

“To play in the Nou Camp is totally different and we have to go there with the same mentality and try to win the game.”

Conte gave a glowing assessment of the 29-year-old Brazilian’s performance.

“Willian has the potential to play this type of game in any game. I hope that to see this type of performance for a long time,” said Conte of a player who has not always been first-choice this season.

 

“When you play this way, the coach doesn’t have a doubt and you play.”

Scarcity: We have Imported  $5.8bn Worth Of Petrol says NNPC

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on Tuesday said it had imported 9.8 million metric tonnes of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol, worth $5.8bn to tackle the fuel scarcity that resurfaced earlier this year.

The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, made this known at a public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja.

But despite Baru’s claim, the queues for petrol in the Federal Capital Territory and neighbouring states grew worse on Tuesday.

In a presentation by the GMD, who was represented by the Chief Operating Officer, Finance and Accounts, Abdulrazaq Isiaka, the oil firm stated that it carried out the massive importation in fulfilment of its statutory role as supplier of last resort to ensure that Nigerians would not suffer as a result of product unavailability.

Baru was quoted in a statement issued by the spokesperson of the NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, as saying that the provision of 9.8 million metric tonnes of petrol had helped a great deal in ameliorating the suffering of Nigerians.

He said the corporation’s intervention became necessary following the inability of the major and independent marketers to import the product because of the high landing cost, which made cost recovery and profitability difficult owing to the regulated price regime.

The GMD, however, pointed out that cross-border smuggling due to price disparity between Nigeria and neighbouring countries, where a litre of petrol was selling above N350 per litre as well as logistics in trucking products to different locations across the country, remained serious challenges in the quest for no queue situation in the country.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Uroghide, noted that the public hearing was part of the committee’s duty to find lasting solutions to the problem of fuel scarcity in order to make life easy for all Nigerians.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday released the Petroleum Products Importation Report for 2017, with the country said to have imported 17.31 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit or petrol in the period.

The bureau stated in the report that was made available to our correspondent in Abuja that 4.28 billion litres of Automotive Gas Oil, 340.33 million litres of household kerosene, 592.73 million litres of Aviation Turbine Kerosene and 15.61 million litres of Low Pour Fuel Oil were imported into the country in 2017.

The report stated that the months of July and August recorded the highest volumes of PMS imported into the country at 1.88 billion litres, while the highest volume of AGO and household kerosene were imported in March and April 2017, respectively.

The report read in part, “The petroleum products’ importation statistics for 2017 reflected that 17.31 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit, 4.28 billion litres of Automotive Gas Oil, 340.33 million litres of household kerosene, 592.73 million litres of Aviation Turbine Kerosene and 15.61 million litres of Low Pour Fuel Oil were imported into the country in 2017.

“State-wide distribution of truck-out volume for 2017 showed that 18.36 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit, 4.75 billion litres of Automotive Gas Oil, 944.39 million litres of household kerosene, 554.61 million litres of Aviation Turbine Kerosene and 127.42 million litres of Low Pour Fuel Oil were distributed nationwide during the period under review.”

The NBS had in the PMS price watch released last week stated that on the average, Nigerians paid the sum of N190.9 per litre to buy petrol in January.

This, is about N46 per litre higher than the official pump price of the product.

Russia Pays $15m Doping Fine To The Olympic Body

Russia has paid the $15 million it was fined in December when it was suspended by the International Olympic Committee for mass doping.

“The fine has been paid,” the source said.

The payment of the fine by the Russian Olympic Committee is one of the IOC’s key criteria in deciding whether to lift Russia’s suspension before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday.

The IOC barred Russia from the Olympics on December 5 after allegations that it had organised a huge system of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where hosts Russia topped the medals table.

A team of 168 Russian athletes deemed to have proved they are “clean” have been allowed to compete in Pyeongchang under the banner Olympic Athletes from Russia.

But Russia was embarrassed by the positive drugs test for curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky — one of the competitors who was extensively screened before he was allowed to attend the Games.

His case is due to be heard in a special session of the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday.

Krushelnitsky, who tested positive for the endurance booster meldonium, has denied knowingly taking the substance and says he is in “shock” at the result.

Serena Williams Says  Health Issues Killed Her

Serena Williams says she lives in fear of blood clots, a condition that  started during a harrowing postnatal ordeal in September when she almost lost her life in the process of giving birth to her daughter.

In an op-ed piece she wrote for CNN on Tuesday, the tennis legend opened up on on her near-death experience while giving birth to daughter, Olympia, after getting blood clots in her lungs.

“I almost died after giving birth to my daughter,” Williams said.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams said she had to have an emergency Cesarean section surgery after her heart rate plummeted dramatically during contractions. The surgery was successful and before she knew it she was holding the newborn.

“But what followed just 24 hours after giving birth were six days of uncertainty,” she said.

In a Vogue magazine interview in January, Williams said that during her postnatal ordeal she suffered a pulmonary embolism — when blood clots block one or more arteries in the lungs.

But this was not the first time the 36-year-old Williams has had a scrape with death from blood clots. In 2011, she spent nearly 12 months incapacitated after a cut on her foot from a piece of broken glass at a Munich restaurant led to a pulmonary embolism.

“Because of my medical history with this problem I live in fear of this situation,” the American said Tuesday.

Williams said that while recovering in the hospital, one day after the emergency Cesarean, she felt short of breath and after some convincing on Williams’ part, the hospital staff finally sent for a CT scan and then put her on a life-saving drip.

Wound popped open

But her ordeal wasn’t over. She started coughing so much from the blood clots that her Cesarean wound popped open.

“I returned to surgery where the doctors found a large hematoma in my abdomen. Then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from travelling to my lungs.

“When I finally made it home to my family I had to spend six weeks of motherhood in bed.”

Williams praised the hospital Tuesday staff saying “if it weren’t for their professional care, I wouldn’t be here today”. She did not reveal the name of the hospital in the CNN piece.

Her kind words though were in contrast to some sharp statements she made in the earlier Vogue article where she says she had to coax the hospital staff to send her for a CT scan and hook her up to an IV.

“I was like a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip (blood thinner),” Williams told the magazine.

Williams said it was a complicated experience and despite the agonizing ups and downs she “considers herself fortunate”.

Partly for surviving the ordeal and also because she can still live out her dream on the tennis court once she returns to competitive form.

The former world number one staged her long-awaited tennis comeback earlier this month by playing alongside her older sister, Venus, in a Federation Cup doubles match but it didn’t go well.

Serena — looking rusty and slow-footed — lost 6-2, 6-3 to the unheralded Dutch pairing of Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs.

Enyimba To Play Benin’s Energie FC In CAF Confed Cup

Enyimba will face Benin Republic’s Energie FC in the first round of the CAF Confederation Cup after the humble side got a surprised 2-1 aggregate win against Haifa of Guinea in the preliminary round.

Energie FC  had a 1-0 first leg win and scored a late equaliser in the reverse fixture in Conakry on Tuesday to earn 1-1 draw against their host.

The Beninoise will play the two- time African champions Eyimba and are hoping to create another shocker.

They will host the Peoples Elephant on March 6, while the return fixture is billed for the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar a fortnight later.

Enyimba did not play in the preliminary round as they were drawn into the first round by the Confederation of African Football.

Nigeria’s other representatives in the competition, Akwa United, will face Hawks of Gambia in their preliminary round second leg fixture today in Banjul.

The Promise Keepers lost the first leg 2-1 to the their hosts at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo.

No Nigerian club has won the CAF Confederation Cup in the past.

Ranieri Ready To Abandon Nantes For Italian Job

Claudio Ranieri, who led Leicester City to a shocking English Premier League title, disclosed  he is prepared to quit French Ligue 1 club Nantes if he is offered the Italian Coaching Job.

The 66-year-old has been one of those speculated to replace Gian Piero Ventura  who was forced to resign after Italy’s shocking failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.

“Any Italian coach would love to be in charge of the national side,” Ranieri, who guided Leicester to their first ever Premier League title in 2016, told Sky Sport Italia.

“I have a contract with Nantes for two years and I have not received any messages, so I can’t say anything.

“But if I were to be contacted for the Italy job, I’d go to the Nantes president and ask to be released,” said the widely-travelled Ranieri, whose former clubs include Juventus, Napoli and Roma in Italy, Premier League giants Chelsea and Valencia and Atletico Madrid in Spain.

He also had a brief stint in charge of the Greek national side.

Ranieri joined Nantes this season and the club are in the fifth position in Ligue 1, 10 points behind Lyon, who are in the fourth and final European qualifying spot.

Italy’s 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat to Sweden last year meant the Azzurri failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

Former Italy head coach Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini are also among those linked to the coaching job.

Italy Under-21 boss Luigi Di Biagio has been appointed an interim coach to oversee friendlies against Argentina and England next month.

Billy Graham, Passes on  99

American Evangelist Billy Graham, a spiritual advisor to numerous number of American president  has died at age 99.

Graham,a tall and handsome was  an ordained Southern Baptist minister, cut a charismatic figure as an evangelical preacher whose huge rallies found audiences on radio and television.

He preached  to a long line of US presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, and also featured in the recent mini series “The Crown” as a spiritual adviser to the young Queen Elizabeth II.

Oduah Refused Fifth EFCC Invitation In Three Years

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission may have no choice than to declare a former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah, wanted after she declined five invitations, in the last three years.

Oduah who was expected to be at the EFCC office on Monday, February 19, failed to show up.

A source at the EFCC said, “The ex-minister is under investigation for allegedly perpetrating several corrupt acts while she was a minister. She has continued to ignore all invitations and if she fails to cooperate, we will either obtain a warrant for her arrest or declare her wanted’’.

“She has not even deemed it fit to respond via letter stating her reasons for not honouring the invitations.”

The spokesman for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, had told The PUNCH last week that Oduah who currently represents Anambra-North Senatorial District in the Senate, had shunned three invitations in the last three months.

The current episode brings the number of ignored invitations to five.

Oduah had also refused to say if she would honour the EFCC’s invitation when she was asked by The PUNCH last week.

When contacted on Tuesday, Oduah neither confirmed nor denied the invitations from the EFCC.

After listening to the enquiries, she said, “As I am talking you now, I am at a budget defence meeting. Call me tomorrow (Wednesday).”

Oduah had recently issued a statement to deny the alleged diversion of fund under her watch as aviation minister.

She had said, “At no time was any money meant for contracts under my watch as the Aviation minister diverted to any company belonging to me neither did I pay back any loan from any such funds.

“All contracts awarded by the Ministry of Aviation under me followed the due process and as for the contract under reference, the said contract was executed.”

Umotong Shocked By Super Falcons Invitation, Explains Nigeria Choice

England-based striker Ini Umotong has expressed her  amazement after she received invitation to the Alanya Women’s Tournament in Turkey.

African champions the Super Falcons will compete in the invitational tournament along with seven other countries.

Umotong, 23, plays for Brighton & Hove Albion in the Women’s Super League 2, the second division of women’s football in England.

Brighton are currently third in the league with 16 points from eight matches, seven points adrift of leaders Doncaster Rovers Belles who have played one game more.

“It was a feeling of shock, excitement and anxiousness. I was so excited, as I’ve been waiting for a call-up for a long time and it was really emotional,” Umotong told Brighton’s official website.

“The new coach Thomas Dennerby emailed me, and my heart stopped a bit when I found out that it had all been confirmed.

“My family were very happy and proud once they found out, and I’m so pleased with how it’s all turned out.”

The 23-year-old has one senior cap to date and explained how playing internationally is different to club football.

“I’ve been called up twice before. I have one official cap and I was called up to the Nigeria squad for the World Cup in 2015, but didn’t make any appearances,” she added.

“It was definitely the best experience of my career so far and I just turned 21 at the time. I played against Mali in Mali for my debut in February 2015.

“The playing style is completely different, but I loved it as it was really fast-paced and physical. It was a playing style I adapted to and took back to my playing club. I learned so much being around that standard.”

Umotong holds dual nationality and is also eligible to play for England, but opted for Nigeria.

“I was born in Nigeria and I came over to the UK as a one-year old, so I have dual nationality and two passports,” she explained.

“The thought was always there [to play for England]. I was called up to a couple of youth camps at under-15 level, so I always had the possibility to play for England.

“But Nigeria suited my playing style more, as they’re very direct and physical, so it just felt right to play for Nigeria.”

Dangote Cement Gains N58bn In stock Market

Despite the fact that trading on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange on Tuesday was characterized  by sell-offs across sectors, the unfavorable  impact was offset by buying interest in some large cap stocks, especially that of Dangote Cement Plc.

As a result, the NSE All-Share Index appreciated by 0.38 per cent to close at 42,148.40 basis points from 41,987.74 basis points while the year-to-date return appreciated to 10.2 per cent.

By implication, investors gained N58bn as equities capitalisation appreciated to N15.125tn from N15.067tn.

The positive performance can be attributed to gains in Dangote Cement, which gained 3.5 per cent. The benchmark index would have lost 0.84 per cent ex-Dangote Cement. Activity level strengthened as volume and value traded rose by 77.7 per cent and 102.6 per cent to 510.282 million units and N4.631bn, respectively.

Sector performance was largely bearish as all indices, save for the industrial goods index which rose by 1.6 per cent on the back of gains in Dangote Cement, closed on negative notes. The oil/gas index declined the most, down by 1.3 per cent following losses in Total Nigeria Plc and Conoil Plc, which shed five per cent and 9.7 per cent, respectively.

In the same vein, the banking index slumped by one per cent as major banking stocks like Zenith Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc dipped respectively by 0.8 per cent and 0.5 per cent.

The consumer goods and insurance indices fell by 0.1 per cent and 0.4 per cent consequent on price depreciation in International Brewery Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Wapic Insurance Plc and Linkage Assurance Plc, which recorded respective decline of five per cent, 0.7 per cent, 4.6 per cent and 4.2 per cent.