Kelechi Iheanacho overshadowed fellow Premier League stars Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez on Tuesday as Nigeria made a winning start to their Africa Cup of Nations campaign and title-holders Algeria were held.
The Leicester City forward scored the only goal on 30 minutes as the Super Eagles overcame lacklustre Egypt 1-0 in a clash of Group D big guns in the northwestern city of Garoua.
His match-winner and overall performance earned Iheanacho the man-of-the-match award on a day when prolific Liverpool scorer Salah and Manchester City winger Mahrez failed to sparkle.
Captain Salah cut an isolated, frustrated, figure at the Stade Roumde Adjia and when he did get a scoring chance in the second half, his prod was saved by the boot of goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.
It was an otherwise uneventful evening for the Nigeria shot-stopper, who must have anticipated being called into action more often against the record seven-time African champions.
This was the eighth meeting of the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs in the flagship African tournament and three-time Cup of Nations champions Nigeria have won four and drawn two.
Nigeria succeeded after a troubled build-up in which German coach Gernot Rohr was fired following an unimpressive World Cup qualifying run and former national star Augustine Eguavoen took temporary charge.
Eguavoen’s squad was without forwards Victor Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis and Odion Ighalo for a variety of reasons, but his team went on the offensive from the kick-off and did him proud.
Speedy winger Moses Simon played a major role when the Super Eagles took the lead at the 30,000-capacity stadium.
His cross was only partially cleared by Ahmed Hegazy and Nigerian Joseph Aribo nodded the ball into the path of Iheanacho, who hammered a half-volley past goalkeeper Mohamed Elshenawy.
Fortunately for Egypt they will face potentially weaker opponents Guinea-Bissau and Sudan in their remaining mini-league matches and should reach the round of 16.
Algeria were hot favourites to win the opening Group E match against Sierra Leone, a lowly ranked team making a first Cup of Nations appearance since 1996.
But captain Mahrez could not inspire his team in the Atlantic port city of Douala and several excellent saves by Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara saw him voted man of the match.
His finest moment came during the second half when Yacine Brahimi broke through, but the goalkeeper held his shot at the second attempt.
Ivory Coast, considered the biggest threat to Algeria in the section, face Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday in a match offering both teams a chance to top the table.
The draw did allow Algeria to extend their remarkable unbeaten run in competitive action to 35 games, just two shy of Italy’s record of 37 without defeat.
The heat and humidity of a mid-afternoon kick-off at the Japoma Stadium didn’t help, but Sierra Leone deserve enormous credit for their display.
“We were up against well organised opponents and the weather conditions were difficult. It was very, very hot and extremely humid,” said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi.
“We are close to Italy’s unbeaten record, which is good. We are unbeaten in three years, but we don’t think about that ahead of every game. We just wanted to win today.”
England-born Sierra Leone coach John Keister said: “We are here to do our thing. Whether we are a surprise in this tournament remains to be seen. I don’t want to get carried away after one game.”
Algeria face Equatorial Guinea on Sunday, and the Ivory Coast meet Sierra Leone the same day.
PSG crisis: Kylian Mbappe unhappy with Lionel Messi for taking side in feud with Neymar
Kylian Mbappe is said to be upset that Lionel Messi is close to Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain as the club are reportedly on the brink of crisis following the latest high-profile fallout.
Mbappe and Neymar fell out over the order of penalty takers in the team during the Ligue 1 clash against Montpellier this weekend, after the Brazilian did not allow his teammate to take PSG’s second spot-kick after the Frenchman had seen his first effort saved.
So bad was the tension inside the dressing room that experienced defender and former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos was reportedly forced to step in to separate the feuding pair – as cracks reappeared, in spectacular fashion, within the squad.
There is reportedly an element of rivalry between Mbappe and Messi at the Parc des Princes relating to the status of Neymar while multiple reports last season outlined the depth of the dressing room split in Paris – with Mbappe believing Messi’s friend lacks discipline and is damaging to the club.
A constant theme in recent years of the PSG dressing room is a lack of discipline and meaningful leadership at the club.
Mbappe opted to sign a three-year contract extension with the Ligue 1 champions earlier this summer, with reports claiming that the striker would hold great sway in the club’s sporting decisions as part of the agreement to extend his stay at the Parc des Princes. Indeed, the appointment of new sporting director Luis Campos could be linked to Mbappe as the pair know each other from their time together at Monaco.
However, a report from goal.com explains that Mbappe is already feeling frustrated that he does not have the power at the club that he had assumed, with the influence that Neymar had over both Messi and Sergio Ramos – the two other heavyweights in the dressing room – said to be a source of discontent.
The fallout of the weekend’s incident has continued subsequently with Neymar ‘liking’ two social posts that slammed Mbappe over the episode. The first post included the sentence: “After the game, the coach said that Mbappe will be the team’s main hitter for the season. An absurdity.” In the second post ‘liked’ by Neymar, the Frenchman is accused of being “the owner of PSG.”
There was a significant off-field change at PSG this summer with the appointment of Campos to replace the outgoing Leonardo as sporting director, while Christophe Galtier replaced Mauricio Pochettino in the dugout.
Their priority was to instil much-needed discipline at the club and transform the transfer policy – with Vitinha, Renato Sanches and, in the works, Fabian Ruiz fixing the midfield – but the former aim is receiving an early test after this weekend’s events.
Frenkie de Jong transfer: Chelsea 'know' they've beaten Man Utd 'as announcement prepared'
Chelsea know they will beat Manchester United to the signing of Frenkie de Jong, according to reports in Spain.
The Red Devils have been linked with the Barcelona midfielder all summer as Erik ten Hag looks to reunite with a player he previously worked with at Ajax. The player himself though has shown no willingness to move despite a fee being agreed with Barcelona.
Chelsea have arrived late to the party and are confident they hold the upper hand. De Jong is desperate to continue playing Champions League football and the Blues can offer him that, whilst United can’t. SPORT reports that the west Londoners are waiting for their moment to move as a result.o
The Blues have yet to make any major moves in that area of their squad with the likes of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante all in their squad. That trio are ageing however and Thomas Tuchel would welcome a new addition into his midfield.
Chelsea have already added the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly and Raheem Sterling, but the feeling is they are still not equipped to challenge for the Premier League title and the arrival of De Jong would strengthen their hand. Barcelona are looking for €80m – but the Blues will look to get that fee down.
United’s failure to add De Jong has left them to pursue other options with time running out to add new faces. Adrien Rabiot was on their radar but a deal has collapsed due to wage issues whilst the likes of Ruben Neves remain on their radar.
The Catalans are desperate to get players off their books to generate some much needed revenue. Their financial situation is well documented and they have been willing to offload De Jong, whose wage issues with the club have been publicised and criticised.
Barcelona have continued to spend big this summer on the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, but cannot register new players until they raise some more funds, which will no doubt further their want to sell De Jong, who would command a hefty fee.
The Dutchman has remained part of the first-team picture however and came on as a substitute in their opening game of the season against Rayo Vallecano. Xavi said after the contest: “De Jong is not a substitute. He’s an important player and I have said that many times. I don’t know what will happen, but if he stays he will continue to be important.”
Jamie Redknapp and Micah Richards clash over Manchester City duo
Rodri has started Manchester City’s opening two Premier League matches this season, while Phillips has had to settle for a place on the bench since arriving as a big money summer signing from Leeds United
Jamie Redknapp and Micah Richards got heated as the pair disagreed over Manchester City duo Rodri and Kalvin Phillips.
The punditry duo were putting together a combined Liverpool and Man City starting XI, and things turned X-rated as they discussed their preferred holding midfielder out of the duo and the Reds’ anchorman, Fabinho. Redknapp was adamant that the Liverpool man should be in the side, while Richards wanted City’s Rodri in there.
But former Liverpool and Tottenham man Redknapp believes Phillips is a better passer of the ball than Rodri when delivering his assessment of the two City players. This proved quite the bone of contention between Richards and Redknapp, as they argued over who should be in the side.
Speaking on LADbible, Richards started when his opposite number suggested the England man should be in the conversation.
The ex-Man City defender responded: “He’s not in the same bracket yet. I wouldn’t put Phillips there, I don’t think he is better than Rodri and certainly not better than Fabinho.”
Redknapp: “But I tell you what he is. He’s a better passer than both of them, by far. The way he pings the ball about.
Redknapp: “Are you taking the p**s? Are you taking the p**s?
Richards: “Are you taking the p**s?”
Redknapp: “What, you think that Rodri is a better passer of the ball than Phillips? I’m going. I’m going. Whoa, whoa, whoa, Jamie. You think he’s a better passer than Rodri?”
Richards: “You think Phillips is – a better passer than Rodri?”
Redknapp: “100%, all day long. Rodri’s a sort of nice, simple, clouting type. Are you winding me up?”
Richards: “Are you winding me up?”
Redknapp: “No, you must be winding me up. Phillips is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball that we’ve produced in years.”
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