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WEEKEND TAKEAWAY: What is the NPFL Without an Ugly Drama?

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For seven months of football inaction across the country, the NPFL returned with a cracking opening weekend that served the odd statistic: away win.

The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is one of the toughest leagues in Africa, and by extension, the world. Not for anything else but for the level of competitiveness brought about mainly by the inability of teams to win games away from home. A trend that is deeply rooted in corrupt practices; bribing match officials, and if that doesn’t work hooliganism does.

Match officials are usually too concerned about their own safety that they hand an undue advantage to home teams, making it relatively easy to win games.

It’s only the opening weekend, a matchday that isn’t even completed yet, but we already have everything a typical NPFL league season experiences: Dominant home wins, trifling away win, and the dehumanization of match officials. An ugly trend that the league management company (LMC) must prioritize if football development will ever become a reality.

Does Performance Still Matter at Manchester United or Just Results?

One good shot at goal, Hugo Lloris poorly positioned, as usual, Marcus Rashford’s effort across the face of goal hits the far post and rolls in. 1-0, game over!

That would have been a Jose Mourinho led Manchester United, right? Except on Sunday night, Ole Gunnar Solskjear’s side did no better than a Jose Mourinho side would have done.

Perhaps, the downside to this is that David De Gea might have made much fewer saves than he was forced to make on Sunday. Spurs would have been too frustrated trying to cut United open and it would have made the game boring.

At least this time we got value for money, top notch entertainment. But it wasn’t Manchester United who pegged their opponents back; rather, they played in their own half for a third of the entire game.

Well, thanks to De Gea’s ‘octopus-esque’ legs, nothing went past him. He was a constant nemesis to a really aggressive Spurs attack who hauled shot after shot at the Spaniard but he was up to the task.

De Gea made 11 second-half saves to preserve Manchester United’s lead, extending United’s winning streak to six games. And however poor Man United were, this win against a top-six opponent is a massive boost to their confidence and now the battle for the top four is truly on.

Lacklustre Arsenal Bottle Chance to Close Gap

Since Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten run was ended by Southampton a month ago, Unai Emery’s side have displayed an uncommon level of inconsistency, picking up only three wins in a run of eight games and equally suffered a couple of humiliating defeat to rivals.

Saturday’s London derby defeat only made matters worse for the gunners. As it turned out, it was a missed opportunity to close the gap on Tottenham Hotspur and a chance to keep their lead over Manchester United intact.

Arsenal will play Chelsea and Man City in two of their next three Premier League games, in between that is the FA Cup fourth round clash against Manchester United; bizarrely it feels like the worst time for the gunners to take on all three teams.

La Liga Returns to Status Quo?

Have you been paying attention to the drama in Spain? I bet you haven’t. The four-horse race is dead, 19 matchdays and the thought of a three or four-horse race for the title has become a mirage.

First, it was Real Madrid, who recorded a first league win in three, delivered by Dani Ceballos at the same ground where he honed his skills before forcing a move to Real Madrid two summers ago.

A win that brought an injury-plagued and management starved Real Madrid back into the top four, level on point with Sevilla, who is in the worst run of form among the top four teams at the moment.

Asides Barca, only Sevilla have spent more time at the top of the league this season, but Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to a desperate Athletic Bilbao handed Sevilla their fifth game in six without a win. A run that has cost the side a slight advantage held over Barca, and now leaves them 10 points behind the Blaugrana.

The trouble isn’t over for Pablo Manchin; Sevilla will play Athletic Bilbao for the third time in 6 days on Wednesday – both sides were drawn in Round 16 of the Copa del Rey – before a win or bust clash against Real Madrid over the weekend. And perhaps this clash at the Santiago Bernabeu will bring back the spark as neither team has a margin for errors.

Leo Messi Raises the Bar, Again

I have said this for the umpteenth time, and it’s because I strongly believe that by the time Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo retire, the next generation of players will both names at the top of every record they chase.

Lionel Messi’s casual left-footed drive against Eibar on Sunday made it his 400th goal in La Liga. Since he overtook Telmo Zarra in 2014, he has gone on to shatter the legendary Athletic Bilbao striker’s tally of 251 goals which stood for 59 years.

Well, there are no prizes for guessing who is second on the all-time’s list despite spending only nine seasons in Spain.

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