Ahmed Musa

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AFCON: Nigeria first team through to Round of 16 at African Cup, joined by host Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Former champion Nigeria became the first team to reach the last 16 at the African Cup of Nations after defender Kenneth Omeruo‘s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 win over Guinea on Wednesday.

The Nigerians were unimpressive in the first half in Alexandria but lifted their game in the second. Alex Iwobi‘s rasping shot was pushed away by Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone and Ahmed Musa almost set up Odion Ighalo on a counterattack.

The former Chelsea defender Omeruo did what the forwards had not been able to do when he beat Kone with a glancing header at the near post off Moses Simon’s corner in the 73rd minute.

Nigeria, which won the title in 2013, has two wins from two games in Group B. It beat Burundi 1-0 in its first match and now needs a draw from its last fixture against Madagascar to finish top and stay in Alexandria for the last 16.

There was more good news for Nigeria when Samuel Kalu came on as a substitute near the end. The midfield player collapsed at a training session the day before the first game, suffering from dehydration, and was hospitalized.

Coach Gernot Rohr rested captain John Obi Mikel against Guinea.

Elsewhere, Egypt also confirmed a place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ahmad Elmohamady and Mohamed Salah each scored in the first half to lead the Pharoahs to victory, the hosts second-straight win in the competition.

In the other match of the day, Uganda tied Zimbabwe, 1-1.

Season Preview: Another star departs; can Leicester cope?

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Leicester City at a glance

Premier League titles: 1 (2016)

FA Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up – 1949, 1961, 1963, 1969)

League Cups: 3 (1964, 1997, 2000)

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It’s been two years since Leicester City won the Premier League after starting the season as 5,000-1 long shots, and the Foxes only managed to narrowly eclipse their 2015-16 season points total (81) in the last two seasons gone by, combined (91). Leicester were headed for a serious relegation battle when Claudio Ranieri was dismissed nine months after lifting the PL trophy, but managed to finish 12th (44 points) on the back of a seven wins in their final 13 games. Last season followed quite the opposite path, as Craig Shakespeare was fired in October and Claude Puel arrived with a massive boost still quite early in the season. They finished ninth, but still won just 47 points in the process.

N'Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were pretty unquestionably — and probably in that order — the three most important players during the title-winning season. Kante left for Chelsea mere weeks after celebrating at the King Power Stadium, while Mahrez finally got his long-sought-after move to — and corresponding payday from — a European giant, Manchester City. Even while missing a handful of league games due to transfer-related issues last season, Mahrez still bagged a dozen goals to come second, behind Vardy (20), for his now-former club.

The top-end talent is nowhere near the level it has been in the recent past, but there’s a solid case to be made that the middle of the squad is massively improved and that that could result in a steadier ride in 2018-19, with higher lows and lower highs.


Leicester will further solidify a top-half place because… manager Claude Puel builds and drills extremely competent and organized — but limited, albeit — teams. They’ll have one of the most robust, hardest-working midfield units in the entire league. They will be no fun to play against, and they’ll be even more difficult to score again. They have a great chance to finish with the best defensive record of clubs outside the top-six.

Leicester will end up in the relegation scrap because… scoring goals will be a challenge, unless Kelechi Iheanacho has a breakout season. While contributions will come from more places this season, there isn’t really any way to replace a player of Mahrez’s caliber if you’re a club of Leicester’s stature. Mid-table PL sides don’t sell a player for $80 million, then turn around and replace him with a $50- or 60-million player, the way an Arsenal or Chelsea can do. Also, Vardy is will turn 32 years old in January, and at some point he’s no longer going to be lightning quick, at which point he becomes far less effective — and feared.

Best possible XI:

Schmeichel

Pereira — Maguire — Evans — Chilwell

Ghezzal — Iborra — Ndidi — Gray

Maddison

Vardy

Transfers In: James Maddison ($32 million, Norwich City), Ricardo Pereira ($29 million, Porto), Danny Ward ($16 million, Liverpool), Jonny Evans ($5 million, West Brom), Rachid Ghezzal (undisclosed, Monaco)

Transfers Out: Riyad Mahrez ($80 million, Man City), Robert Huth (free), Ahmed Musa (undisclosed, Al-Nassr)

Ranking their offseason: B-

As discussed already, it’s impossible to replace Mahrez directly or with one player, so it was wise to not even try. Maddison has quickly progressed through the Football League and is full of potential, but he’s 21 years old and has played zero PL minutes in his career. Pereira, 24, is good enough to lock down the right back spot for nearly a decade, if he’s not poached by a bigger club in two years’ time; Evans arrives with the perfect blend of experience and a cheap price tag to replace Huth. Ghezzal is the wild card of the bunch.

Star player: In a perfect world, Iheanacho will have asserted himself as the Foxes’ undisputed star by the time May — November, preferably — rolls around. He’ll have to overcome a lot to do so, though, as Puel used him sparingly last season and pretty clearly doesn’t see him as a fit alongside Vardy, meaning he’ll likely have to unseat the man 10 years his senior in order to deliver on the potential he showed during brief flashes during his time at Man City.

Coach’s Corner: Again, Leicester won’t play the most beautiful, free-flowing soccer you’ve ever seen — far from it, actually — and it’ll be downright frustrating at times, and it’ll be by Puel’s design.

PST Predicts: Alongside Everton, Leicester should occupy no man’s land dead center between the top-six and the other dozen teams in the PL, all of whom are similarly competent and ambitious, but lacking the kind of depth possessed by the Toffees and Foxes. Leicester appear set to be a PL club for quite a long time into the future.

Nigeria beats Iceland; Argentina still alive

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Ahmed Musa scored a pair of terrific goals as Nigeria set up Group D for a thrilling final day with a 2-0 win over Iceland in Volgograd on Friday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was arguably Iceland’s Man of the Match before he sent a penalty kick over the bar.

Nigeria now has three points, two more than Argentina and Iceland. Nigeria plays Argentina and Croatia faces Iceland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Gylfi Sigurdsson swung a dangerous early free kick over the bar, then produced the game’s second chance. That one was caught by Francis Uzoho, the 19-year-old Deportivo de la Coruna backstop.

Nigeria’s breakthrough came courtesy a lethal counter attack, as Kenneth Omeruo headed a cross clear of the Eagles’ 18. Kelechi Iheanacho collected and found Victor Moses racing down the right flank.

Moses’ cross was collected by Musa with an unorthodox outside of the boot trap, allowing him a second against his surprised mark. Musa lashed home for 1-0.

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The game was delayed for a bit when Ragnar Sigurdsson was waylaid with a head injury.

Wilfred Ndidi had a rip deflected over the bar in the 57th, and Nigeria opted for a short corner.

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Musa then basically put it to bed when he cut into the 18 and danced around two defenders with the goalkeeper in between before putting a composed finish into the goal.

Iceland got new life through an 81st minute penalty kick awarded via Video Assistant Referee, but Gylfi Sigurdsson blazed it over the bar.

Arsenal gets CSKA Moscow in Europa League

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With the Champions League draw concluded and Liverpool preparing to face Manchester City, the Europa League draw took center stage and sent Arsenal to .

The Gunners’ Arsene Wenger was hoping to avoid Atletico Madrid, and the 1/7 odds held up; The Gunners will head to Russia to face Vitinho, Ahmed Musa, Igor Akinfeev and CSKA Moscow.

[ MORE: Arsenal cruises past Milan ]

The two sides met in the group stage of the 2006-07 Champions League, with Moscow winning one and drawing the other.

As for Atleti, they get a tricky intra-peninsula trip to Sporting Lisbon, while Lazio will like it’s draw with Red Bull Salzburg. The other RB crew, the Bundesliga’s Leipzig, has a tough task in Marseille.

UEFA Europa League quarterfinals
RB Leipzig vs. Marseille
Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow
Atletico Madrid vs. Sporting Lisbon
Lazio vs. Red Bull Salzburg

January transfer window grades for every PL club

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How did all 20 of the Premier League teams fare in the January transfer window?

[ MORE: Latest January transfer news

With the window ending on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET, now is the time to analyze which clubs did the best wheeling and dealing over the past 31 days.

Below is a grade for all 20 clubs based on their business.


Arsenal: A
All in all, a very good window for the Gunners. They got Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Alexis Sanchez in a straight-swap, then spun Olivier Giroud out to Chelsea on Deadline Day for $25 million and brought in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for $77 million as well as Mesut Ozil agreeing a new deal. They sold Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin as well as getting Matheiu Debuchy off the books. Despite their defense still needing work this was a major rebuild by Arsene Wenger, all for just $10 million net. Very, very fruitful January and plenty of promise for the months ahead.

West Brom: B+
They kept hold of captain and inspirational center back Jonny Evans for their impending relegation battle and added a world-class striker in Daniel Sturridge on loan from Liverpool. A fine window for Alan Pardew‘s Baggies who also added Egyptian center back Ali Gabr as cover.

Manchester United: B+
The Sanchez deal was a massive bonus for United who couldn’t believe their luck when Man City pulled out of the deal. Jose Mourinho also got rid of Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the deal and United loaned out a few fringe players. Sanchez should give them the boost they need in the final months of the season to finish in the top four and go far in the Champions League.

Chelsea: B+
Pretty decent window for the Blues in the end as Olivier Giroud arrived on Deadline Day, plus Ross Barkley was well with a gamble at $20 million and Emerson Palmeri will provide key competition at left back. Antonio Conte may not have the overall say on transfers, but his squad has been strengthened with Michy Batshuayi leaving on loan the only major departure.

Manchester City: B
Swing and a miss on Mahrez and Alexis Sanchez but Aymeric Laporte arrived for a club-record $80 million fee and he will be a long-term project in defense. Jack Harrison was the only other arrival and the former NYCFC man is a product of the City Football Group who loaned him out to Middlesbrough right away.

Liverpool: B
They addressed their big need at CB with Virgil Van Dijk coming in, but was that all that Liverpool needed? Philippe Coutinho‘s departure for $197 million saw them bag VVD and come out $97 million on top in the deal, but Klopp will definitely spend big on a goalkeeper and a few more defenders in the summer.

Brighton & Hove Albion: B
The Seagulls needed to add extra firepower and they did that with Jurgen Locadia and Leonardo Ulloa arriving. A decent window for Brighton and they kept hold of their star players.

Tottenham Hotspur: B-
A Deadline Day arrival with Lucas Moura coming in from PSG for $32 million which could be a steal. He will give Spurs something extra in attack in their top four battle. Loaning out several fringe players will be helpful.

Swansea City: C+
Solid enough window for the Swans as brought in Andre Ayew on Deadline Day for $23 million as he returned to the Swans and will add goals. They kept hold of Alfie Mawson which was a big moment. Given their recent good form, they didn’t need to add much.

Everton: C+
Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott were a necessity with Sam Allardyce desperate to increase his attacking options. Eliaquim Mangala arriving on loan provides extra defensive cover too. Kevin Mirallas, Sandro and Ross Barkley all leaving was a bonus and the Toffees probably needed to trim the wage-bill further too.

Leicester City: C
They kept Riyad Mahrez, despite late interest from Manchester City, and Claude Puel looks to have found a gem in Fousseni Diabate. They also shipped out Ahmed Musa and Leonardo Ulloa who weren’t going to play. Decent window.

Stoke City: C
Badou Ndiaye’s arrival on Deadline Day could be a nifty pick-up in midfield with $19.8 million spent, while Moritz Bauer and Kostas Stafylidis will be steady defensive additions to the squad. Paul Lambert needs to rejuvenate the talent within his squad too.

Burnley: C-
Quiet window for Burnley who added Aaron Lennon and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou to give them extra pace out wide, but you get the feeling Sean Dyche wanted to do a bit more business with his Clarets tumbling down the league. Keeping hold of Ashley Barnes was a bonus.

Southampton: C-
The big loss was Virgil van Dijk but they got $100 million for him from Liverpool and a record deal for a center back. It was time he left after not playing anywhere near his full potential. Guido Carrillo has arrived to add extra firepower but not getting the deal over the line for Quincy Promes has left a cloud hanging over their window.

West Ham United: D
Frustrating window in many respects for David Moyes who did plenty of wheeling and dealing late on. Hit by injuries to key players, he needed to do plenty late on and Joao Mario’s addition on loan from Inter looks like a superb signing. Jordan Hugill arrived from Preston too and will add strength in depth up front.

Watford: D
Javi Gracia’s arrival as manager saw Gerard Deulofeu arrive on loan, but keeping Troy Deeney could be a bigger deal. Didier Ndong has arrived on loan too but the Hornets could have done with a few more defensive reinforcements.

Huddersfield Town: D
Terrence Kongolo and Alex Pritchard were the key arrivals and although the Terriers spent big on Pritchard, you feel like David Wagner could have worked the loan window a little better.

Crystal Palace: D
Erdal Rakip and Jaroslaw Jach will bolster Roy Hodgson‘s squad but the veteran manager will have wanted more from this window. His search for a new striker didn’t go well but Palace did sign Alexander Sorloth late on. Despite their recent good form, the Eagles rely heavily on Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend and Christian Benteke.

Bournemouth: D
No significant arrivals and plenty of youngsters shipped out on loan. Not a busy window at all for the Cherries as Eddie Howe decided to keep his cash in his pocket. With the relegation picture so tight, Bournemouth are another club in the bottom half who could rue not spending.

Newcastle United: D-
A disappointing window for the Magpies who needed a striker but Daniel Sturridge turned them down and Nicolai Jorgensen was too expensive. Kenedy arrived on loan from Chelsea and given the state of limbo with a new ownership deal in doubt, Rafael Benitez must be a very frustrated man. A late loan move for Islam Slimani could save the day for the Magpies though.