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Premier League

Liverpool deliver victory in an emotional farewell for Klopp

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Premier League - Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - May 19, 2024 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp reacts before his last match REUTERS/Phil Noble

Liverpool delivered much-loved manager Juergen Klopp a victory in his final game with the team on Sunday, a 2-0 win over 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield in an emotional Premier League season finale.

Alexis Mac Allister and Jarell Quansah scored on a day that did not impact the Reds’ third-placed finish in the table, but one that Liverpool fans had been dreading since the 56-year-old German manager announced in late-January that he would leave the club at season’s end after almost nine years at the helm.

“I’m probably surprised, I thought I’m already in pieces to be honest, but I’m not, I’m so happy. I can’t believe it,” Klopp told the Anfield crowd after the game. “I’m so happy about you all, about the atmosphere, about the game, about being part of this family, about us, how we celebrated this day. Thank you so much!”

Klopp’s men, who were on course to give their manager a fairytale ending before a string of bad results last month derailed their title challenge, finished the season on 82 points, nine behind winners Manchester City and seven behind second-placed Arsenal.

“I’ve got no words, it’s a very emotional day,” Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk — fighting back tears — told Sky Sports. “It was always going to be a tough afternoon. We wanted to make sure that we do our job basically and then obviously we can all be very emotional after the game.

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“(Klopp) deserves every bit of love that he’s getting.”

Wolves were reduced to 10 men in the 28th minute when Nelson Semedo was sent off for his ugly tackle on Mac Allister. Six minutes later, the Argentine midfielder headed home Harvey Elliott’s curling cross, bringing Klopp to his feet with a huge smile. Quansah doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 40th minute when he poked in Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah’s shot.

Klopp bade farewell to the Anfield faithful — including owners John Henry and Tom Werner who flew in from Boston for the occasion — having won 305 matches, including penalty shootouts, with the Reds.

A crowd more than a dozen deep and bathed in red smoke squeezed shoulder to shoulder along the road leading into Anfield on Sunday to welcome the team busses as they pulled in before kick off.

If Liverpool’s pre-game singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — the song by 1960s Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers that became the club anthem — raises goosebumps most games, the Anfield crowd sang at the top of their lungs on Sunday while Klopp raised a hand to his heart.

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“This morning I woke up and I was completely in game mode,” Klopp told Sky Sports before kickoff. “We had a normal team meeting and the 60,000 here and the few million watching deserve that.

“People call it the last dance, so let’s dance!”

Klopp won seven trophies since joining the club in 2015, including the Champions League in 2019 and a first English League title in three decades in 2020. He also won the Club World Cup, FA Cup, League Cup twice and UEFA Super Cup, as well as the Community Shield.

But the German was beloved as much for his passionate demeanour as his on-field success with the Merseyside club. He delighted fans with his high-octane goal celebrations and his post-victory fist pumps. He wrapped his players in huge bear hugs.

Fans’ appreciation was on full display over the final few minutes of Sunday’s game with supporters on their feet singing their version of the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” over and over.

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“I’m so glad that Juergen is a Red, I’m so glad he delivered what he said!”

Klopp bowed his head several times struggling to control his emotions. His wife Ulla dabbed at tears.

After Liverpool lifted the League Cup in February, there was talk of a fairytale ending for the manager but they were eliminated from the FA Cup and Europa League and then dropped down the league standings.

Salah, who made his 250th league appearance for the club on Sunday, finished as the season’s top scorer with 18 league goals, while the team totalled 142 across all competitions, the second-highest in the club’s history after the 2021-22 season (147).

-Reuters

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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.

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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Premier League

Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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