Connect with us

EUROPA League

Europa Cup: The Final Onslaught as United, Ajax Clash

Published

on

After the Manchester terror attack of Monday night that put thick cloud over the UEFA Europa League Cup final, the stage is finally set for an epic clash of Manchester United and Ajax Amsterdam.

It is the 46th final match in the competition and Stockholm in Sweden is the stage as both sides look forward to a direct entry into the group stage of the next edition of the more glamorous UEFA Champions League.

If observations by Sports Village Square are anything to go by, the favourites appear to be Manchester United who have remained unbeaten in their last 10 European games. The scorecard looks very appealing – seven victories and three drawn games.

But sometimes, age play a role in determining contests. Ajax Amsterdam playing their first European Cup final match since the epic performance of the mid 1990s when the Nigerian duo of Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu aided their success will be featuring a largely youthful side.

Sports Village Square gathered from UEFA that the average age of Ajax players is 22. Lasse Schöne who is likely to be fielded ahead of Donny van de Beek in the midfield will be the only over 25 in the Ajax side.

Advertisement

He is picked because of his experience and skill in taking set pieces. Both Ajax and Manchester United have players barred from the final match. For Ajax, Nick Viergever is suspended for the final.

Perhaps as a balancing act, Manchester United will also be without their Ivoirian defender, Eric Bertrand Bailly who is also suspended.

Also both have injury issues to contend with, but Manchester United is worse hit. For Ajax Amsterdam, Daley Sinkgraven has lost his race to be fit after six weeks out with a knee problem.

With Nick Viergever suspended, Jairo Riedewald is the most likely choice to fill the vacant left-back berth, though there’s an option to switch Joël Veltmann there, with Kenny Tete coming in on the right.

For the Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimović will have to watch from the stands on account of injury. José Mourinho gave debuts to five youngsters on Sunday but expect a far more recognisable line-up on Wednesday.

Advertisement

Sergio Romero will continue in goal – he has stood in for David de Gea for much of United’s European campaign – with Phil Jones favourite to deputise for Eric Bailly at centre-back. Marcus Rashford fills the sizeable void left by Zlatan Ibrahimović.

 

Ajax Amsterdam

 Likely XI: Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Sánchez, Riedewald; Klaassen, Schöne, Ziyech; Traoré, Dolberg, Younes.
Out: Viergever (suspended), Sinkgraven (knee/fitness)

Manchester United

Advertisement

Likely XI: Romero; Valencia, Jones, Blind, Darmian; Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Mkhitaryan.
Out: Bailly (suspended), Shaw (ankle), Ibrahimović (knee), Rojo (knee), Young (hamstring)

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

EUROPA League

Hat-trick hero Lookman takes winding road to Europa League triumph

Published

on

 Europa League - Final - Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - May 22, 2024 Atalanta's Ademola Lookman poses for a picture with the trophy after winning the Europa League Final REUTERS/Paul Childs 

Atalanta’s Europa League hat-trick hero Ademola Lookman admitted that he had to wait a while for success after years in and out of favour at different clubs but said it was “just the beginning” after he sank Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

The Nigeria forward became the first person to score a hat-trick in a Europa League final in the 3-0 win, which handed the Bergamo club their first major trophy in 61 years and ended the German champions’ remarkable 51-game unbeaten streak.

“Maybe it could have come earlier, but it’s come now,” said the 26-year-old Lookman, who bounced around in England with Everton, Fulham and Leicester City and in Germany with RB Leipzig before settling in Atalanta two seasons ago.

“This is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this and to just keep getting better and better,” he told a news conference.

Lookman, who was a youth international for England, credited the Atalanta coaching staff and leadership of manager Gian Piero Gasperini for his revival. Since arriving at the club, he has scored 30 goals in 76 matches.

Advertisement

He pointed in particular to Gasperini’s belief in attacking football that has helped him to flourish.

“The first conversations I had with him made me look at football a lot different. It made things simple. It allowed me to play my game in a different light. I’m very grateful to him,” he said.

Asked if he would have imagined such a night in his wildest dreams while starting out as a teenager at Charlton Athletic, Lookman responded: “Probably yeah.”

“I’ve always had the confidence in my ability to create, to score goals, to help my team mates. In the past two years I’ve been able to take my game to a whole new level,” he said.

-Reuters

Advertisement

Continue Reading

EUROPA League

Ademola is Player of the Match

Published

on

Atalanta’s hat-trick hero Ademola Lookman was named Player of the Match after scoring a historic hat trick for his club in the Europa League final match.

 UEFA’s Technical Observer Panel said: “[It’s awarded] for obvious reasons and his all-round enthusiasm and energy. [He was] really sharp and his execution was spot on.”

Ademola Lookman, Player of the Match, speaking to TNT Sports: remarked: “It’s one of the best nights of my life. It was an amazing performance from the team. We did it – fantastic. I’m just happy we won. We made history tonight.”

Continue Reading

EUROPA League

Nigeria’s Sports Minister salute Europa League hero, Ademola Lookman

Published

on

Ademola Lookman, the history maker is held aloft

Nigeria’s  Minister of Sports Development, John Owan Enoh, has showered encomiums on Super Eagles winger Ademola Lookman for his extraordinary performance in the Europa League final.

 Lookman scored a historic hat-trick, leading Atalanta to their first European title on Thursday night in Dublin, Ireland.

Lookman’s three goals secured a 3-0 victory for Atalanta against Bayer Leverkusen, ending their opponents’ 51-game undefeated streak and marking the first-ever hat-trick in a Europa League final.

This victory also signifies Atalanta’s second major trophy, their first since winning the Coppa Italia 61 years ago.

In his congratulatory message, Enoh praised Lookman’s exceptional talent and dedication, which have brought immense pride to Nigeria.

Advertisement

“Ademola Lookman has demonstrated remarkable skill and resilience, leading Atalanta to a historic victory. His performance in the Europa League final was nothing short of spectacular, and he has made Nigeria proud on the global stage. We celebrate his achievement and look forward to many more milestones in his career with club and country,” said Senator Enoh.

The Sports Minister also extended his congratulations to Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella, who played pivotal roles in leading Bayer Leverkusen to the final. Their contributions were integral in securing the German Bundesliga title, with the German Cup still within reach.

“Victor Boniface and Nathan Tella have also shown exceptional prowess and determination throughout the season. Their journey to the Europa League final and success in the Bundesliga is commendable. They serve as an inspiration to young athletes in Nigeria and around the world. I urge them to take pride in their performances and success this season,” Senator Enoh added.

The Nigerian football community celebrates these achievements, reflecting the growing influence and talent of Nigerian players in international football.

Lookman scored the opener in the 12th minute through superior sharpness, before hitting a brace with a fine curler in the 26th minute. He secured his hat trick in the 75th with a pile-driver hit of a goal.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Most Viewed