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Friday, August 29, 2014

English Premier League Predictions – Matchday 4

The English Premier League enters its third matchday this weekend and as always, there are intriguing matches lined up to get your heart racing, your nerves scaling the ceiling and your knowledge, or lack thereof, of your team’s preparedness for a good result put to the test. Only four teams have had a 100% start, current holders Manchester City, fellow title favorites Chelsea and of course the early pace setters this time being Tottenham and Swansea City. Spurs have a stern test when they welcome Liverpool and so does Chelsea who travel to Everton. Swansea and Manchester City have fairly winnable fixtures in West Brom and Stoke City but it’s never a given in the Premier League. So how will your team fair this weekend? Here’s my take, Thesteifmastertake!

Burnley 1 2 Manchester United (Saturday, 1445hrs)
Bottom half duo, Manchester United and Burnley will open the Premier League matchday 3 action at Turf Moor when they clash at lunch time. Neither teams have had a good start with United looking comfortable in 13th, just a point ahead of Burnley who look uncomfortable in 19th position. United haven’t gotten their season going and are yet to register a win in their last three matches.  A 4-0 hammering at the hands of MK Dons in the midweek Capital One Cup clash laid bare the frailties at the club but the record signing of Angel Di Maria in a British transfer record seem to have convinced the Red Devils fans that Louis van Gaal is the right man for the job. Burnley have lost all their last three matches and don’t look like they have the mettle to stay in the Premier League. You would expect United to roll over them on Saturday but will the visitors’ defence be free of Johnny Evans-esque mistakes? I don’t think so. A very nervy win here for United.

Manchester City 2 0 Stoke City (Saturday, 1700hrs)
Manchester City made a statement last Monday night beating Liverpool 3-1 at the Eitihad. The Citizens looked the class and while they didn’t dominate the Reds, they were clinical in front of goal though all the goals were contributed by Liverpool’s defensive shortcomings. The win took City to second in the league. They next face Stoke City who drew 1-1 with 10-man Hull last weekend. The Potters have never beaten City in the Premier League since their 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium in January 2009 while their last win at City was when both clubs were in the Championship in 1997. City won this corresponding fixture 1-0 last season through a Yaya Toure 70th minute strike. Manuel Pellegrini’s expensively-assembled squad will be favorites for the three points here again and with Stefan Jovetic on fire, getting victory shouldn’t be a problem.

Everton 2 1 Chelsea (Saturday, 1930hrs)
Chelsea old boys, Romelo Lukaku and Samuel Etoo will have a chance to show Jose Mourinho just what he’ll be missing this season when Everton host the Blues at Goodison Park. Lukaku switched the blue of Chelsea for the Everton blue after first failing to impress Mourinho who shipped him out to Merseyside on loan last season. However, with the resigning of Didier Drogba, the signing of Diego Costa and the rise of Andre Schurrle, Lukaku’s time at Stamford Bridge came to an end and Roberto Martinez moved fast to tie snap up the Belgian in a club record signing. Etoo’s time at Chelsea wasn’t fruitful as he ended up making headlines for his alterations with Mourinho rather than his goals for the Blues. The duo will have revenge written all over their faces when Chelsea clash with Everton on Saturday evening. Chelsea made it a 100% start with a labored 2-0 win at Leicester while Everton let a two-goal lead slip within 10 minutes in their 2-2 draw with Arsenal. Focus will be on Etoo however and Lukaku who I tip to fire in and exact revenge on Mourinho whose attack could be blunt in the absence of injured Diego Costa.

Tottenham 1 2 Liverpool (Sunday, 1530hrs)
Oh boy, he’s back!! Yes he’s back!! The super, the entertaining, the dramatic, the cocky, the controversial, the feisty, the adrenalized Mario Balotelli. The Premier League prodigal son has finally come, home! In what is probably the most exciting signing of the summer, Mario Barwuah Balotelli made his return to the Premier League after signing for Liverpool from AC Milan for £16m ONLY. I emphasize ONLY because Mario’s drama is worth more than that, let alone his sometimes underrated football brain. The Italian forward was on the stands last Monday night to watch Liverpool fall to his former employers Manchester City. Had he been in that game, the scoreline for sure would have been different. But, somehow, fate had it that he would be in that match but denied him the chance to play in it. But the wait is over as Balotelli will most probably lead the line for Liverpool when they travel to London to face highflying Spurs at the White Hart Lane. Spurs are in a rich vein of form having won all their last 8 games including two in the Premier League and their midweek Europa League qualifier match against Cypriot side AEL Limassol. Liverpool on the other hand went down to City on Monday night. All the goals the Reds conceded were defensive mistakes. New signing Alberto Moreno  erred for the first, Gerarrd failed to track his man for the second and Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet were all out of position when Aguero slotted City’s third. The Reds’ defence will be put to question again with the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor ready to pounce at any chance. However, the presence of Balotelli will give the Merseysiders a big lift and with the new SAS of Sturridge and Sterling looking ever so dangerous, Balotelli and co should be able to get past Spurs who they beat 5-0 on this ground last year.

Leicester 1 1 Arsenal (Sunday 1800hrs)
Arsenal looked down and out at Everton last weekend with only 10 minutes before the final whistle. However, with the clock reading 83minutes, Aaron Ramsey popped in with a goal from a Santi Carzola cross from the left channel. And then in a flash, Olivier Giroud, Arsene  Wenger’s version of a ‘prolific’ striker headed in the equalizer in the 90th minute to ensure the spoils were shared as Alexis Sanchez failed to really lit up the pitch as widely expected. The Gunners had a midweek Champions League qualifier clash against Besiktas which they had to win and so they did, Sanchez netting his first goal since his move to send the London side to Champions League for the 17th season in a row. It’s back to domestic football for Wenger’s men who travel to promoted side Leicester. The Foxes gave a spirited fight against Chelsea last weekend but they ran out of steam in the second half and allowed Chelsea to score twice. Nigel Pearson’s side welcome Arsenal to the King Power Stadium on Sunday evening. Should they produce a performance akin to the one against Chelsea and just be a wee clinical in front of goal, they will give Arsenal a run for their money. A scoring draw looks likely.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

How Liverpool and Real Madrid Squads Have Changed Since the Reds 5-0 Aggregate Win over the Madristas in 2009

Liverpool have been drawn to play Real Madrid when they make their Champions League return after five years in the abyss.

Brendan Rodgers’ side finished runners-up to Manchester City last season which automatically saw them qualify for the competition they have won more than any Premier League club and third most in European club football.

In a group that has Swiss outfit Basel and Bulgaria league champions Ludogorets Razgrad, the Reds and the La Liga behemoths will be favorites to emerge out of the group and into the last 16.

Liverpool fans will be excited to learn that they have never lost any competitive fixture to any of their Group B opponents. They have only ever met Basel once and that was in the 2002-03 Champions League competition with the teams drawing 1-1 and 3-3 over two legs. They have never met Ludogorets.

The Reds last meeting with Real Madrid was in the 2009 Champions League round of 16. Liverpool won 1-0 at Santiago Bernabeu, Yossi Benayoun header securing the Merseysiders the win. In the return leg at Anfield, the home team cruised 4-0, Steven Gerarrd grabbing a brace with Fernando Torres and Andre Dossena also on the scoresheet.

The two teams have however changed exponentially since then, almost as dramatically as the Reds 4-0 capitulation on that Tuesday night. Besides the obvious revamping of the squads, Real Madrid have retained their standing as a permanent Champions League team while Liverpool had fallen backwards and will be making their first appearance in five years. Real Madrid will be going into the campaign as defending champions after beating Atletico Madrid in extra time to lift their 10th title last season, twice as much as the English side whose last triumph was in 2005.

But just how much has the squads changed since the two clubs’ last meeting in October 2009? Of the 18 players who made it to the Real Madrid squad, only four who got involved in the game still play for the Los Blancos; Iker Casillas, Marcelo, Pepe and Sergio Ramos. The numbers get thinner for Liverpool with only captain Steven Gerrard, Martin Skrtel and Lucas still part of the Reds team.

What this means is that there will be new faces all across when the duo clash first at Anfield in October 22nd and then at the Bernabeu on November 4th. The Anfield meeting will come only 12 days past the day they conquered Madrid at the same venue five years ago. But there won't be Juande Ramos in the Real Madrid touchline or Rafael Benitez in the Liverpool one. There won't be Raul, Gonzalo Higuain or Arjen Robben for Real, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, or Javier Mascherano for Liverpool.

There, however, will be mixed emotions for one man; Alvaro Arbeloa. The Spanish defender was part of the Reds team that night but has since transferred to the Spanish capital and swapped the Red of Liverpool for the all white of Real Madrid. It's highly unlikely he will feature though.

Alonso will also not make a return to Anfield having signed for Bayern Munich.  

Bar injuries or suspensions, Steven Gerarrd will lead his troops, and so will Iker Casillas as these two football giants lock horns again. Sweet dreams are made of such.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

Champions League Draw: Liverpool Face Madrid, Man City versus Bayern, Again

The draw for the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League was released Thursday night with some intriguing fixtures lined up at the group stage level.

Defending champions, Real Madrid, have been drawn in Group B alongside five-time champions Liverpool, Swiss side FC Basel and Bulgarian side Ludogorets. Madrid and Liverpool will be favorites to emerge from that group but Basel who have gone beyond the group stage only once in their history could be the dark horses. Liverpool have never lost in European competition to any of their Group B opponents and the 5-0 aggregate win over Real Madrid in the Reds’ last appearance in the Champions League will still be fresh in the fans’ memories.

Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich landed in what is arguably the group of Death after being drawn against Manchester City, Russia champions CSKA Moscow and Serie A side AS Roma in Group E. This will be the third time in four seasons that Pep Guaridola’s men will play the Premier League champions at this stage of the competition. Bayern beat City 3-1 at Allianz Arena last season but City exacted revenge with a 3-2 win at the Eitihad.

Borussia Dortmund once again landed in the same group with Arsenal with the two teams expected to battle in Group D with Turksish side Galatasaray and Belgian champions Anderlecht the other members of the group.

Chelsea were drawn in a fairly easy group that will see them face Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon, Bundesliga outfit Schalke and Slovenian side Maribor in Group G. Last year’s beaten finalists, Atletico Madrid will be among the favorites to progress from Group A which also has Scuddeto winners Juventus and Greek side Olympiakos, and Swedish Malmo FF.

Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain will be the top favorites to emerge from Group F               with Ajax and APOEL Nicosia the outsiders. Group C and H will be anyone’s take. Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco are in Group C with FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletico Bilbao and BATE Barisov in Group H. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wayne Rooney Lands England Captaincy Job

Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney has been named the new England captain by the Three Lions’ manager Roy Hodgson.

The 28-year-old inherits the captaincy from Steven Gerarrd who announced his retirement from national duty after England’s dismal show at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Rooney has previously captained England on two occasions and will double up as club and national team captain after he also got the nod of Louis van Gaal for the Manchester United armband. 

The Liverpool-born attacker will lead a much revolutionized England side in their friendly match against Norway next week Wednesday and the 2016 Euro qualifier match against Switzerland five days later.

“Wayne is an obvious choice for his honesty, commitment to the cause, his experience, the fact he has already captained England in the past. Now of course he’s got that responsibility at Manchester United as well. All those factors weighed into my thought process and I’m pleased to be able to say I’ve been able to offer it to him. I had a long conversation with him and he’s prepared to accept the pressures the England captaincy brings. It's important that the player wants to take on that enormous responsibility," said Hodgson.

Rooney was named captain ahead of Chelsea defender Gary Cahill and Manchester City keeper Joe Hart who had all been tipped to succeed Gerarrd. Rooney became the youngest player to feature for the Three Lions when as a 17 year old, he played in a friendly against Australia in February 2003. That record stood for almost three years with Theo Walcott breaking it in May 2006 by 36 days. 

He has earned 95 caps for England scoring 40 times, joint fourth with Michael Owen and only 9 goals shy of England’s all time leading goalscorer Sir Bobby Charlton who scored 49 times in 106 appearances. His 95 caps makes him England’s 9th most capped player and is the only active member of the current English squad to feature in the top 20.

Meanwhile Hodgson has included four uncapped players in his 22-man squad for the Norway friendly and the Euro qualifier game against Switzerland. New Arsenal man Calum Chambers, Newcastle's Jack Colback, Villa's Fabian Delph and Tottenham fullback Danny Rose were all included in the squad.

Liverpool quartet, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert all retained their places after featuring for England in Brazil and so did Manchester City duo James Milner and keeper Joe Hart. Hart will be deputized by West Brom's Ben Foster and Southampton's Fraser Forster. Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlin, Jack Wilshere and John Stones all made it to the lineup. Tottenham wide man Andros Townsend makes a return after missing the World Cup through injury. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Capital One Cup Third Round Ties

The draw for the third round of the English Football League Cup was released with five of the fixtures pitting Premier League teams against each other.

Arsenal will host Southampton at the Emirates, the Saints having beaten Championship side Millwall in 2-0 in their second round tie. Last year’s beaten finalists, Hull City will travel to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom while Crystal Palace will play Newcastle at Selhurst Park.

Other all-Premier League team fixtures will see Sunderland play host to Stoke City as Everton travel to Wales for their clash against Swansea City.

Current holders, Manchester City will start their title defence against Sheffield Wednesday at the Eitihad Stadium. Sheffield conquered Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor. Record champions Liverpool will host championship side Middlesbrough at Anfield, the two club’s last meeting dating back to over five years ago. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea were drawn to play Bolton Wanderers at Stamford bridge while Tottenham will welcome Nottingham Forest at the White Hart Lane.

Milton Keynes Dons who provided the one of the biggest upsets in League Cup history by hammering Manchester United 4-0 will hope for more of the same when they play fellow League One side Bradford City at Stadium MK. Leyton Orient will play Sheffield United, Cardiff host Bournemouth, Derby County host Reading as Burton Albion play Brighton & Hove Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.

Shrewsbury Town and Fulham will host Norwich City and Doncaster Rovers respectively. The third round ties will be played during the week commencing 22 September 2014. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Van Gaal Running Out of Excuses after Embarrassing Defeat at Milton Keynes

Giggs can't watch as Grigg puts United to shame
Manchester United’s horrendous beginning of the season hit a new low on Tuesday night after they were humiliated 4-0 humiliation by League One side Milton Keynes Dons in their Capital One Cup second round clash in Buckinghamshire.

A brace each from Will Grigg and Arsenal loanee Benik Afobe saw the 10-year-old club hand Manchester United one of their most embarrassing defeats in history.

United manager Louis van Gaal rang the changes into the team that drew 1-1 at Sunderland on the weekend with goalkeeper David de Gea the only man retained.

It was a strong lineup nevertheless captained by the returning Johnny Evans who was slotted in the defence alongside Michael Keane who made his first league appearance for senior squad in the Sunderland game. Brazilian Anderson, Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck all got the nod.

The home team were strong from the off but looked equally vulnerable when United had the ball. However, with 25 minutes on the clock, the MK Dons stadium erupted after Grigg pounced on a Johnny Evan’s error to slot home and make it 1-0 at the half time whistle.

Karl Robinson’s side made it 2-0 three minutes after the hour mark, Grigg chesting Ben Reeves’ pinpoint cross from the left wing pats De Gea. The Don’s fans must have thought they were wallowing in dreams when Afobe made it 3-0 seven minutes later, the on loan Arsenal man picking up from Griggs, the man he’d replaced. 

The Red Devils’ struggled to trouble David Martin in the Dons’ goal until the 72nd minute when he was forced to palm away James Wilson’s stunning strike from 20 yards in what was United’s first shot on target. Adnan Januzaj rattled the post immediately after and Wilson forced Martin to another stunning save as United searched for a consolation goal.

However, the tide shifted and Afobe made it 4-0 with 6 minutes to go as United, who were playing at this level for the first time in 19 years, crushed out.  

The ignominious defeat extended Van Gaal’s poor start at United with the Dutch manager yet to register a win. On a night that the club’s fans should have been celebrating the arrival of club and British record signing Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, they were left scratching their heads, biting their fingers, pulling their hairs and wondering in silence if this is really a new era or a continuation of the forgettable David Moyes era.

As United next travel to promoted side Burnley on Saturday afternoon for their next assignment, anything other than three points for the 20-time league champions and van Gaal would need to say a lot more than the “I have no regrets,” he told Sky Sports after the mortification he suffered against the club two division below them.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

English Premier League Predictions – Matchday 2


It’s almost hard to believe that the Barclays English Premier League is back. I mean wasn’t it just yesterday when we saw Gerrard slip, Moyes’ turbulent career at United come to a crushing end, Suarez dazzle, Raheem Sterling comes of age, Arsenal celebrate fourth place ‘title’ and eventually Manchester City lift the title? Ok maybe it’s just me who is still struggling to come to terms with the happenings of - for lack of a better word – last season.

And so, last weekend, two clubs underlined just why they are on top of bookmakers’ list as title favorites. Manchester City struggled but eventually edged Newcastle United 2-0 while Chelsea had its new boys banging the goals as they collected a 3-1 win over promoted side Burnley. Manchester United learned preseason and the EPL are like water and petrol while Liverpool began their Suarez-less era with a nervy 2-1 win over their feeder club Southampton.

So what’s going to happen this weekend? Here’s you first 2014-15 season dose of Thesteifmaster EPL predictions. 36 to go…

Chelsea 2 0 Leicester (Saturday, 1700hrs)
Chelsea began their 2014-15 title hunt with a comfortable 3-1 win over Burnley last weekend. The Blues had the three points in the bag even before half time with Diego Costa opening his account in Premier League kit before Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic also netted. Chelsea’s new boys, Costa and Cesc Fabregas were particularly remarkable, the former proving he was no Fernando Torres after slotting his first goal home in his maiden Premier League appearance for Jose Mourinho’s men while Fabregas looked to have picked from where he left three seasons ago with two assists. No more goals came in the second half. Chelsea face another promoted side, Leicester at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening. The Foxes drew 2-2 against Everton in their first Premier League match since their relegation into the championship almost 10 years ago. Nigel Pearson’s side will be a tougher proponent as compared Burnley but Chelsea’s quality at the moment makes them formidable especially against such lowly opposition. A comfortable win and a clean sheet for Thibaut Courtois.  

Everton 2 1 Arsenal (Saturday, 1930hrs)
Everton were forced to share spoils with Leicester last weekend after Chris Woods’ 86th minute strike drew the game 2-2. The Toffees are now without a win in their last 6 matches, five of which were in preseason against opponents you would have expected them to stick their boots in. Roberto Martinez’s side last win came on the last day the Premier League against Hull City. Record signing Romelu Lukaku played the full match but did not put his name on the scoresheet. Arsenal left it late against manager-less Crystal Palace with Aaron Ramsey scoring at the death for a 2-1 win. Ramsey then saw himself receive a red card in the midweek 0-0 draw in a Champions League qualifier match against Besiktas. This match will be a test for the two clubs and perhaps give us an early indication of who can finish where. However, with Everton at home, they will be keen to reward the fans with a win after such a long wait. My guts tell me Lukaku will be up for the challenge and score the winner here.

Sunderland 1 1 Manchester United (Sunday, 1800hrs)
Different manager, different season, different tactics, different captain, same ole same ole Manchester United. United fans thought this was the season they were going to remind all ye naysayers who have been celebrating their horrific fall last season who’s the real boss in English football. After all, they had appointed a manager who led a team to the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup, a man whose reputation as a no-nonsense manager is known to many, a man who has won titles wherever he has gone. Admittedly, it’s early, almost amateurish to judge the performance of Louis Van Gaal and indeed Manchester United on one loss but the 2-1 defeat against Swansea was a confidence batterer, even more so given it happened at Old Trafford. The Dutch coach knows only so well saying, "When you have preparation, win everything, then lose your first match, it cannot be worse…We have built up a lot of confidence. It will be smashed because of this." Very well put given that the Red Devils had a 100% record in preseason winning all their matches which included games against Liverpool, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AS Roma. But that was that. United have a chance to right the wrong when they face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Sunday evening. The Black Cats drew 2-2 with West Brom in their season opener and will fancy themselves rocking United’s ship before it steadies. The two met four times last season with Sunderland winning thrice to United’s once and that was in the league at home to Sunderland. Will Van Gaal’s first step of steadying the ship begin here? A hard fought draw I expect.

Manchester City 2 2 Liverpool (Monday, 2200hrs)
It’s not always common that you find two clubs who will no doubt be involved in the Premier League title dogfight clash this early in the season. Liverpool pushed Manchester City to the bitter end during last season’s title run with the Manchester club just about edging in after the Merseysiders slipped towards the end. Liverpool have since lost the services of Luis Suarez but reinforced the squad by signing close to a full team as they seek to remain steady after the departure of the Uruguayan. The likes of Lazar Markovic, Emre Can, Javier Manquillo, Alberto Moreno and Southampton trio Adam Lallan, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert have all been brought in to bolster a squad that will be stretched to the limit with added responsibilities of Champions League football. Mario Balotelli is also on his way but he will unlikely be ready to face his former employers after completing his £16m move from AC Milan. That leaves Liverpool with Daniel Sturridge as the main man up front heading into this early title decider match. The English forward continues to hit the heights for Liverpool and scored over the weekend in the 2-1 win over Southampton. The No. 23 alongside young Raheem Sterling are Liverpool’s new ‘SAS’ and looks like they are already in business after they both scored with Sterling setting up Sturridge for the winner. Man City are awash with world class players and are widely expected to mount yet another serious title charge. Liverpool are in the mix, though not in equal terms. The two already met during the preseason with Liverpool winning on post-match penalties after a 2-2 draw in normal time. City will be favorites to win this match but expect the Reds to give it a real go. A scoring draw on a Monday night isn’t so bad.

And That’s thesteifmastertake!!

Former COPA Trio Land AFC Leopards Contracts

L-R: Alfred Wekesa, Geoffrey Alwala and Haroun Nyakha conduct last year's COPA national finals draw
Three players who played in the 2012 edition of the COPA Coca-Cola grassroots youth football tournament have been awarded contracts by Kenya Premier League giants AFC Leopards.

The trio, Haroun Nyakha, Alfred Wekesa and James Mazembe have been recruited to AFC’s under-19 set up alongside 7 other players who impressed during the recently concluded Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association (KSSSA) games.

The three played for eventual champions Kakamega High School who won the schools’ title after edging out Kisumu Day 1-0 in the final. Nyakha captained the team to victory while forward Wekesa and left-back Mazembe were equally instrumental. They are currently in Tanzania for the East Africa Secondary School games which runs between August 22nd-1st September.

Nyakha and Wekesa featured for Western Stima during last year’s KPL under-19 tournament leading the team to a 4-0 victory over Tusker in the final for the western side’s maiden title. 

The Kakamega High School alias Green Commandos trio participated in the 2012 COPA under-17 edition for Western region catching the eyes of most football scouts who selected them for further training at an international camp in South Africa.

Nyakha captained the Kenyan contingent at the camp and even made it to the African ‘Dream Team’ which comprised of the best players from 15 countries who were at the camp.

The COPA Coca-Cola tournament has acted as a career launching pad to many global football superstars including Victor Wanyama, Danny Sserunkuman, Ronaldinho, Javier Hernandez, Robert Lewandowski among others.

And That's thesteimastertake!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Suarez Makes Barca Debut

Barcelona fans finally got a glimpse of their new man, Luis Suarez, in action after the Uruguayan made his debut for the Catalan club in the Joan Gamper Trophy match on Monday.

Camp Nou was the stage where the former Liverpool forward played his first game in Barca colours after his initial ban from featuring in any form of football after his biting incident at the World Cup was lifted.

The 27-year-old replaced Rafinha in the 75th minute in the match against Mexican club, Leon. His debut came 31 days after his £75 million move from Liverpool.

Suarez entered the action with Luis Enrique’s men holding a comfortable 4-0 lead over La Fiera, Lionel Messi, Neymar (twice) and youngster Munir El Haddadi having found the back of the net.

Although he did not sparkle or cap his maiden appearance with a goal, Suarez was involved as the Baugrana scored two more goals from El Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez as the game ended 6-0 in favor of the Spanish outfit.

Barca fans were denied a chance to watch Suarez link up with Messi as his fellow South American had been withdrawn. 

It won’t be until October 25th when the fiery Uruguayan will make his first competitive debut and it doesn’t get any better than in a Classico match as Barca will play Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabue on the day Suarez's four month ban ends. 

Only then will Barca fans and indeed the football universe get to see what the attacking trio of Suarez, Messi and Neymar are made of. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kitale Youth and Shinyalu Youth Girls Win COPA 2014 Title

Rift Valley’s Kitale Youth and Shinyalu Girls from Western are the 2014 COPA Coca-Cola under-15 national champions.

The two teams emerged this year’s winners after both won on post-match penalties, Shinyalu beating Cherangany Starlets 4-2 while Kitale overpowered Lakers 5-4 in matches played at City Stadium.

The boys’ final was a tightly contested affair with both teams showing they deserved to be playing the finals.

Kitale who beat the Lakeside outfit 2-0 in their Group ‘A’ clash earlier in the week were quick off the blocks taking the lead inside two minutes, Eric Wafula slicing open the Lakers’ defence before slotting home through the legs of Eric Ochieng in Kisumu goal.

Lakers reasserted themselves thereafter putting the Rift outfit under incessant pressure. They almost drew a goal back when Jack Odhiambo was put through but Kitale keeper John Musumba was quick off his lines to collect the ball.

With ten minutes on the clock, Lakers who lost last year’s final to JMJ Academy found the equalizer. Benson Omalla received the ball from outside the danger area, killed it into his chest before unleashing a rasping shot into the back of the net to draw Kisumu level.

Both teams tightened their backline thereafter but it was Lakers who threatened more. Twice, Omalla found himself in a good position but was thwarted by Musumba as the match ended 1-1 at half time.

Kisumu dominated the second half but could not find the winner sending the match into penalties.

Isaiah Opiyo’s reliable skipper Frankline Otieno stepped up first to easily drill home. Musumba took Kitale’s first and almost lost but Erick Ochieng’s hands were too weak to hold onto the ball. Kisumu’s Collins Omondi, Jack Odhiambo and Basil Ochieng converted successfully and so did Charles Chege, Ken Mwendwa and Rashid Issa for Kitale.

Marvin Omondi saw his penalty saved by Musumba giving Brian Bahati the chance to score and win Kitale the title. The lanky midfielder delivered for Gideon Olando’s men leaving Ochieng stranded and sending Kitale into celebration while Lakers were left to lick their wounds after losing a second successive final.

Shinyalu ended their spectacular COPA 2014 campaign with a winners’ medal after beating Cherangany Starlets 4-2 on post-match penalties to claim the ladies’ title. The Kakamega County queens took the lead early in the first half through Lavendah Lihemo only for Cherangany to equalize immediately through Naomi Jepkosgei.

The match ended 1-1 in full time. Shinyalu converted all their penalties but Cherangany’s Belinda Bright and Jacinta Njeri saw theirs saved by Shinyalu custodian Lydia Mukasia as the Western side won this year’s title after coming third last year.

The winners went home with Kshs. 500,000 each with the runners up pocketing Kshs. 200,000

Last year’s winners, JMJ Academy who beat Murhanda 3-2 in the boys’ third place playoff were awarded Kshs 100,000 alongside Nyanza’s Nyamira Girls who beat Kirindara 1-0 in the ladies’ third place playoff.

Meanwhile Shinyalu captain Lavender Lihemo was named the ladies’ most valuable player with Kitale’s Kennedy Mwendwa lifting the boys’ gong.

Beaten finalists Cherangany and Kisumu Lakers had their keepers, Nancy Chebet and Eric Ochieng named the best keepers while the Golden boot awards went to Shinyalu’s Lavender Nalisi and Kitale’s Elly Saenyi, both with four goals as curtains came down on one of the best COPA Coca-Cola tournaments in recent memory.

Football Kenya Federation President, Mr. Samson Nyamweya were among the guests who attended the closing ceremony at City Stadium. 

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

It’s Lakers versus Kitale Youth and Shinyalu versus Cherangany in COPA Finals

This year’s COPA Coca-Cola boys’ national title will either return to Nyanza or make its maiden appearance in the Rift Valley after Kitale Youth and Kisumu Lakers won their semifinals fixtures in the penultimate day of the under-14 championships.

Kitale knocked out defending champions JMJ Academy while 10-man Lakers beat Murhanda in the semis for the second year in a row to book their slot in the finals.

Two first half goals from Elly Saenyi and Austin Juma sent JMJ packing as their troubled campaign finally hit a dead end. JMJ who just about qualified for the semis netted consolation goal via a penalty from Vollar Okinyi.

Lakers entered their second final in succession after squeezing a 1-0 win over Murhanda in spite of being reduced to 10 men. Joseph Otieno scored the solitary goal towards the end of the first half as the Lakeside outfit became the only team from last year to survive the onslaught from newcomers.

Lakers and Kitale already met at the group stages with the Rift team triumphing 2-0 hence they will be favorites to land the national title. The boys’ final will be played tomorrow at City Stadium.

Shinyalu Girls will face Cherangany Starlets in the ladies’ finals after the Western queens rained goals on Kirindara Girls in a 5-0 mauling while Cherangany piped unlucky Nyamira Girls 4-2 in post match penalties. 

Janet Nalisi continued with her meteoric goalscoring form as she netted a hat-trick for Shinyalu I a one-sided encounter. Janet Khasowa opened the floodgates for Shinyalu in the fifth minute before the industrious Nalisi doubled the lead with a cracking finish from inside the penalty area.

A goal from Mildred Alusa and a second for Nalisi saw John Imbwaka’s side hold an unassailable 4-0 lead at the interval.

Nalisi finished her hat-trick early in the second half to soar the score to 5-0 and all but kill Kirindara’s hopes of staging an unlikely comeback. 

Nyamira dominated Cherangany but could not break their stubborn defence with the match ending barren and into penalties. Cherangany converted all their first four penalties while Nyamira’s Lydia Kirwa and Emily Rioba lost to send the Nyanza side crushing out.

JMJ will seek for redemption when they face Murhanda, who they beat 3-0, in the boys’ playoffs.

Curtains will come down on this year’s edition at the City Stadium where new champions will be crowned. Winners of this year’s title will walk home with 0.5million shillings. There will also be individual awards for best players, goalkeeper and coach.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Nairobi Ladies’ Teams Knocked Out as Murhanda, Kisumu Lakers Set ‘Mashemeji’ Derby Battle

Isaiah Abwar of Kitale Youth (right) competes for the ball with Shallvin Gunter of Kisumu Lakers

The COPA Coca-Cola ladies’ national title will change hands this year after defending champions, Nairobi, saw its representatives knocked out at the group stage level.

The two Nairobi teams Kibra Queens and last year’s runners up, Beijing Raiders crushed out after the former lost all their matches while the latter were beaten to second spot by Rift Valley’s Cherangany Starlets as the proverbial village cocks proved they could, after all, crow in the capital.

Beijing could have secured a slot in the last four had they drawn or beaten Shinyalu Girls but the Western side were ruthless scoring a goal either side of the half in a 2-0 win. Lavenda Murumwa pounded in Shinyalu’s first early in the first half with Janet Nalisi drilling home the second after shaking off her markers.

The humbling defeat sent Beijing parking with the team’s coach, Mark Okwiri ruing his team’s missed chances towards the death. Shinyalu finished top of the group with 7 points, two ahead of Cherangany with Beijing a point further adrift. Kibra finished bottom with zero points and goals.

Shinyalu and Cherangany will clash with either Eastern side Kirindara and Nyamira ladies in the semis to determine who will qualify for the finals set for Saturday at the City Stadium.

Already eliminated Mombasa Starlets won 1-0 against Maragwa Queens, Emma Ongayo with the winner for the Coastal side.

Kitale Youth outwitted Kisumu Lakers in a 2-0 win which saw them finish top of Group ‘A’ with maximum points. Kennedy Mwendwa’s fine strike in the opening minutes put the Rift side ahead with Elly Saenyi finding the second midway into the second interval. Both teams however qualified with Lakers setting a date with Murhanda in the semis in what has been billed as a mini ‘Mashemeji’ derby.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

JMJ on the Brink of Elimination as Kisumu Lakers, Kitale and Murhanda Qualify for COPA Semis

Kisumu Lakers Rodgers Ouma leaves Young Muslims' Ahmed Adan for dead in their COPA matchup

COPA Coca-Cola defending champions, JMJ Academy are glaring at elimination after they drew their second game on the trot in the ongoing national finals in Nairobi.

JMJ were held to a barren draw by Coast representatives Tana Boys in a tight encounter that epitomized the level of competition in this year’s showpiece.

JMJ’s best chance of finding the back of the net came early in the first half when they earned a penalty off a handball incident. Edwin ‘Drogba’ Okoth stepped up but blasted his effort over the bar.

Buoyed by the presence of Garsen MP Ibrahim Feni who traveled all the way to support them, Tana kept the reigning champions at bay till full time. JMJ must now win their final match against table-topping Murhanda Boys to have any chance of making it to the semis.

Elvis Shitambasi moved top of the goalscoring chat after netting a hat-trick in Murhanda’s 4-1 battering of Angaza Youth which saw the Western side book their slot in the semis. Valentine Kuyanda also found the back of the net with Moli Galgalo scoring the consolation for Angaza.

In the last games in the group, Tana will clash with Angaza Boys with both teams still having a chance of making it into the semis should either of them win and JMJ lose to Murhanda.

While the defending champions were having a hard time in their clash, the team they beat last year Kisumu Lakers, and newcomers, Kitale Youth became the first batch to enter this year’s semifinals after they won their opening two matches in Group A.

Lakers who lost 3-1 in last year’s final to JMJ piped Young Muslims 1-0 to guarantee them progress having also won their opening clash against Tharaka 2-0. Franklin Otieno scored the solitary goal in the dying minutes to give the Lakeside outfit a much needed win heading into their top of the table clash against Kitale.

Kitale top the Group ‘A’ standings on six points, same as Lakers but with a superior goal difference. The Rift Valley outfit thrashed Tharaka 4-0 eliminating the Eastern provincial champions in the process. Kitale and Isaiah Opiyo’s Lakers will clash in the last game of the group to determine who finishes at the summit.

It was a good day for Nyanza as the ladies’ team, Nyamira Girls also bulldozed their way into the semis. Having overwhelmed Maragua Queens 2-0 in their opening match, the highly entertaining Nyamira danced their way past Mombasa Starlets with an identical scoreline win. Emily Kerubo was the heroine netting a brace in the second half.

Caren Mukiri carried her goalscoring form into Kirindara’s match against Maragwa who they bundled out with a 2-1 win, Mukiri netting the winning goal after Millicent Mukami had put the Eastern outfit ahead.

Beijing Raiders knocked out Kibra Queens with a 4-0 win to take control of the ladies’ Group ‘A’. Selvine Kasowa continued with her meteoric form scoring all the four goals.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Murhanda, Kitale Shine as Coast Teams Struggle in COPA Nationals

Western provincial champions, Murhanda Boys began their 2014 COPA Coca-Cola tourney with a 2-1 win over Tana Boys as the under-15 national championships entered day two at the Hope Center in Kawangware.

The Group ‘B’ topdogs were involved in an even battle with little separating them until the dying minutes when Tana conceded a penalty which was drilled in with consummate exposure by Murhanda’s Benson Anguva.

Tana leaped in front with five minutes on the clock, Hillan Kesi slicing open the Murhanda defence before slotting home to put the Coast outfit ahead.

The early morning shower rendered the pitch slippery but that didn’t deter the young boys from entertaining the crowd with swift moving football. Murhanda piled on the pressure for an equalizer but their efforts were thwarted by the opposition goalkeeper.

A flurry of corners however gifted Murhanda a chance to level and so they did, Elias Shitambasi letting fly from outside the area to make it 1-1 heading into the interval.

The second half was equally even with neither teams having the cutting edge to hurdle ahead. However, with two minutes before the final whistle, the referee gave Murhanda a lifeline after gifting them with a penalty which Anguva expertly converted.

The win puts Murhanda at the top of Group ‘B’ which also has defending champions JMJ who drew 1-1 with Angaza in the first match.

Kitale Youth were on song against Tharaka Stars handing the Eastern champions a 4-0 humbling. Elly Saenyi opened the scoring for the Rift Valley side with Eric Wafula doubling the lead before the breather. Saenyi netted his second with Kennedy Mwendwa’s stunning strike in stoppage time completing the rout.

In the ladies’ matches, Eastern side Kirindara Starlets were head and shoulders above Coast's Mombasa Starlets who they clawed 3-1.

Kirindara dominated their Coast opponents from the off and it took only seven minutes for them to take the lead, Caren Mukiri finding the back of the net at second attempt. The goal gave Mombasa a wakeup call as they instilled urgency into their game. However, it was Kirindara who continued creating better chances which eventually saw them double their lead at the quarter hour mark through Nanice Mwendwa.

Emma Ongayo won and converted a free kick to draw one level for Mombasa who trailed 1-2 heading into the second half.

Kirindara picked up from where they left piling more pressure on Mombasa who conceded the third barely five minutes after the restart through Josephine Kathambi with the match ending 3-1 in favour of the Eastern outfit.

Shinyalu Girls were held to a barren draw by Cherangany Starlets in spite of finding the back of the net three times but all the goals were ruled offside. Beijing Raiders also won on the day beating Kibra Queens for the umpteenth time.

Tomorrow, defending champions JMJ Academy will be back on the pitch when they play Tana Boys in a must win match for the both sides. Murhanda will face Angaza as Tharaka lock horns with Young Muslims.

Nyamira Ladies versus Mombasa Starlets, Maragwa versus Kirindara and Kibra Queens against Cherangany will be the ladies’ matches.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Defending Champions JMJ Academy Held in COPA Opener, Shinyalu Girls Pip Hosts Kibra League Queens

Reigning COPA Coca-Cola national champions, JMJ Academy, began their title defence in an unconvincing manner as the under-15 national championships began today at the World Hope Center in Kawangware.

JMJ were frustrated to a 1-1 draw by Central region outfit Angaza Youth whose defence stood firm from the off. JMJ lived up to their pre-match billing as favorites and did all but score a goal in the opening half as the two teams went for the breather on level terms.

The second half assumed the same shape with JMJ attacking and Angaza content with clearing their lines.

However, 7 minutes into the second half, the defending champions got the breakthrough through Mark Ochieng who planted the ball home after a goalmouth melee that involved Angaza keeper Jeremiah Maina spilling the ball.

Simpson Bryan almost doubled JMJ’s lead with a 30-yard strike but Maina was equal to the task palming the ball to safety.

As the game wore on, Shaban Baraza’s side harangued their opponents with great abandon but could not find the second goal thanks in part to some wasteful finishing by their frontmen and fine goalkeeping from Maina. Angaza looked dangerous on the counter and they managed to get the equalizer in the 50th minute through Victor Kamau. JMJ failed to muster any meaningful effort for the rest of the game as the Group ‘B’ opener ended in a 1-1 stalemate.

Last year’s beaten finalists, Kisumu Lakers began their campaign seamlessly beating Tharaka Young Stars 2-0. Shavin Gunter opened his and Kisumu’s account in the first half gliding past Tharaka backline before slotting home. Collins Omondi’s second half volley from Gunter’s corner secured maximum points for Lakers as they took charge of Pool ‘A’.

In the ladies’ matches, Beijing Raiders raided Cherangany Starlets’ final third but could not beat the Rift sides’ custodian Nancy Chebet who almost singlehandedly ensured the game ended on a  0-0 draw.

Janet Nalisi missed a sitter for Shinyalu Girls but atoned for that almost immediately as she scored in a 1-0 win over Nairobi’s Kibra Queens.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Coast hopefuls Tana Boys will play Murhanda Boys while Tharaka will try to bounce back with a match against Kitale Youth. Kisumu Lakers will be favorites to bag another three points when they take on Young Muslims.

In the girls’ matches, Mombasa Starlets will take on Kirindara Starlets, Shinyalu will clash with Cherangany Starlets while there will also be the Nairobi County derby pitting Beijing Girls against Kibra Queens.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Defending Champions JMJ Academy Land Tough Pool in COPA National Finals Draw

COPA Coca-Cola defending champions, JMJ Academy have been drawn in a tough group that will see them face Western region giants Murhanda Youth and new Coast provincial champions Tana Boys.

JMJ who won last year’s finals with a 3-1 defeat of Kisumu Lakers landed in Group B which will also involve Angaza Boys from Central Region.

JMJ qualified for the nationals after beating off the challenge of Makadara Juniors in the Nairobi provincial playoffs.

Last year’s beaten finalists’ Kisumu Lakers were drawn in Group A alongside Rift Valley’s Kitale Youth with the two teams favorites to emerge out of the group which also has Young Muslims from North Eastern and Eastern’s Tharaka Stars.

In the girls’ draw, Nairobi duo Beijing Raiders and Kibra Queens were paired together in Group ‘A’. New Western provincial champions, Shinyalu Girls also landed in the same group with Rift’s Cherangani Starlets the fourth member. Beijing and Kibra will be favorites to top the group but Shinyalu Girls are the dark horses.

Nyamira Ladies who dethroned Kisumu Queens in Nyanza will make their national finals debut with games against Central’s Maragwa Queens and Mombasa Starlets from Coast. Eastern outfit Kirindara Girls also landed in the group.

Speaking during the draw, Coca-Cola Kenya Country Manager, Nick Mrutu said, “COPA Coca-Cola has created opportunities for thousands of young footballers in the past, some of whom have gone to have glittering careers in the game of football.”

“We hope that this year, we will have topnotch competition as we look to build a strong youth set up that could be the future of our national team,” he added.

The national finals will kick off next week Monday at Hope Center Kawangware where the preliminary games will be played. The finals will take place at the City Stadium. Team and individual prices in excess of 1.7 million shillings will be up for grabs.


Beijing Raiders
Shinyalu Girls
Cherangani Starlets
Kibra Queens

Nyamira Ladies
Maragwa Queens
Mombasa Starlets
Kirindara Girls

Kisumu Lakers
Kitale Youth
Young Muslims
Tharaka Stars

JMJ Academy
Angaza Boys
Tana Boys

Murhanda Boys

Monday, August 4, 2014

All Set for COPA Coca-Cola Nationals as Tana Boys, Mombasa Starlets Join Finalists' List

Tana Boys are the new COPA Coca-Cola Coast Provincial champions and will represent the region in this year’s national finals set to begin next week.

Tana emerged winners after trouncing Changamwe Youth 9-8 in post match penalty shoot outs in matches played at Mombasa Municipal Stadium. Delvan Laban’s industrious side qualified for the finals after dispatching South Coast outfit Mvita Youth 3-0 in the semis. Ignos Assa opened the scoring for Tana just five minutes into the game with Hillary Kessy’s second half brace assuring them of a slot in the finals.

Changamwe’s tiki taka football overwhelmed defending champions Malindi United who were anything but gracious in a 2-1 semifinal defeat. Said Nassir grabbed a brace for Changamwe whose brand of football made them crowd favorites as they overpowered the defending champions at the semifinals stage.

The results ensured Changamwe and Tana, the two most enterprising and entertaining sides clashed in the final. The game lived up to its billing with both teams showing intent of seizing the provincial title. It was Changamwe however who took the lead with 10 minutes on the clock only for Tana to equalize almost immediately through an Omar Bakari freekick. The same script was repeated after the breather, Tana taking the lead through Ignos Assa but Changamwe made it 2-2 just before full time.

The duo traded penalties with all the 22 players on the pitch stepping up for a spot kick but it was Tana keeper Delvan Laban who emerged the hero scoring his spot kick before saving Tana’s final one to help his team win 9-8 and qualify for the national finals.

The ladies’ title went to Mombasa Starlets who also needed post match penalties to dismiss Bright Starlets 3-2, Millicent Mahenjo saving two penalties for Mombasa.

Meanwhile at Moi Stadium Embu where the Eastern provincial finals were held, Tharaka Stars edged out Machakos Talent 5-4 on post match penalties to qualify for the nationals. The two teams could not find the back of the net in normal time with the game ending on a barren stalemate. Kirindara Girls took the girls' honours after outclassing Fun Starlets 2-0 in the final.

The four teams joined 12 other provincial winners who will gather in Nairobi from the 9th of August for the nationals. The draw for the preliminary rounds will be done tomorrow (Tuesday August 5th). There will be over 1.7 million shillings in contention during the August nationals.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!