Former European champions Ajax Amsetrdam were held to a 2-2 draw at PAOK in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie on Tuesday.
Last season’s semi-finalists Ajax, who have won Europe’s premier club competition four times, made a perfect start in the cauldron of PAOK’s Tumba stadium.
Hakim Ziyech curled in a swerving free kick after 10 minutes.
Roared on by a fervent home crowd, PAOK turned the tide before half-time.
Striker Chuba Akpom capped a flowing move with a fine finish from 10 metres and defender Leo Matos headed home a Diego Biseswar free-kick.
Ajax, who suffered a last-gasp defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in last season’s semi-finals, piled on the pressure after the break.
Ziyech missed a glaring chance before substitute Klaas Jan Huntelaar equalised with a bizarre goal on the hour.
Fernando Varela’s poor clearance from Donny van de Beek’s cross rebounded off the 35-year old striker’s feet into the back of the net from close range.
The visitors then dominated until the final whistle.
In other matches also played on Tuesday, Red Star Belgrade could only manage a 1-1 home draw against FC Copenhagen.
Azeri champions Qarabag took a big step towards the playoff round with a 2-1 win at Cypriot side APOEL.
But Dinamo Zagreb left their progress hanging in the balance after the Croats played out a 1-1 home draw against Hungary’s Ferencvaros.
A Hans Vaneken penalty kick late in the first half gave Bruges a 1-0 home win against Dynamo Kiev.
Red Star, the 1991 champions, conceded a late equaliser after their striker Milan Pavkov reaffirmed his reputation for scoring in big games just before the break.
But he had to be forced off the pitch at half-time by a recurring hamstring injury.
Pavkov, who netted twice in last season’s memorable 2-0 home win over eventual UEFA Champions League winners Liverpool in the group stage, fired Red Star ahead in the 44th minute.
That was when he hooked a loose ball over goalkeeper Sten Michael Grytebust.
Pavkov made way for Richmond Boakye and the hosts were punished in the closing stages for the Ghanaian’s forward’s second-half profligacy.
Boakye missed a pair of gilt-edged chances to double Red Star’s lead before midfielder Dusan Jovancic fouled Copenhagen substitute Mas Jaume in the penalty area.
Jonas Wind coolly converted the 84th minute penalty kick.
Dinamo’s Spanish midfielder Dani Olmo fired them ahead with a superb goal in the seventh minute as he took a clever back-heel by Mislav Orsic in his stride.
He then nutmegged a defender and hit the far corner of the net with a crisp shot.
But Ferencvaros levelled against the run of play on the hour when David Siger beat Dominik Livakovic with a looping header after the goalkeeper had parried a shot from 10 metres.
Goals from Mair Emreli and Magaye Gueye gave Qarabag a 2-0 lead at APOEL before Giorgos Merkis pulled one back for the home sides in the 90th minute.
In Wednesday’s stand-out fixtures, 1967 European Cup winners Celtic visit Romania’s CFR Cluj while twice former champions FC Porto are away to Russians Krasnodar.(Reuters/NAN)
Friendly: Flying Eagles Overpower Zambia’s Junior Chipolopolo in 6-goal Thriller
Nigeria’s under-20 national football team, the Flying Eagles, on Friday in Abuja overpowered their Zambian counterparts, the Junior Chipolopolo, 4-2 at the end of a thrilling international friendly.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the match at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium’s mainbowl was a tune-up game for both teams before the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations.
The 2023 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations is scheduled to take place in Egypt from Feb. 19 to March 11.
The Flying Eagles started the friendly on the front foot as they looked to dominate the game from the onset.
They had their first shot on target as early as in the fifth minute, after Flying Eagles’ prolific midfielder Daniel Daga took a long shot from outside the penalty box.
It was a shot goalkeeper Jeban Tembo found difficult to handle as he parried it to on-rushing Ayuba Abubakar who failed to convert from close range.
The Flying Eagles had another lovely chance at goal in the 11th minute.
But man-of-the-match award winner Haliru Sarki saw his 30-yard free-kick hit the upright before goalkeeper Tembo parried the ball out for a corner-kick.
The Junior Chipolopolo had a chance of their own in the 17th minute but Moses Mulenga saw his powerful strike from outside the box parried away by goalkeeper Nathaniel Nwosu.
The Flying Eagles had two quick chances at goal six minutes later, but Ibrahim Muhammad squandered both opportunities with wayward and indecisive shots respectively.
Sarki had another lovely opportunity to open scoring for the hosts in the 33rd minute, after a clever dribble saw him take out two Zambian defenders.
But goalkeeper Tembo made himself big and punched Sarki’s shot away for a corner-kick.
The stalemate would however be broken barely five minutes later.
Sarki was gifted another opportunity and his lovely-placed shot from just outside the box crept into the bottom right corner of goalkeeper Tembo’s post in the 38th minute.
The second half saw a rejuvenated Zambian side begin to find their rhythm as they went in search of the equaliser.
The visitors responded well and scored in the 55th minute through a simple tap-in by Amon Chulu, after a defensive error in the Flying Eagles’ vital area.
Sarki came close to grabbing his brace and Nigeria’s second goal three minutes later, but his lovely free-kick again hit the upright to save goalkeeper Tembo’s blushes.
He then provided a lovely cross for substitute Olamilekan Adams in the 60th minute after a clever dribble from the right.
But Adams saw his powerful header parried away by goalkeeper Tembo.
Nigeria’s second goal would however come barely three minutes later after Solomon Agbalaka’s pin-point cross from the left corner connected with Adams’ powerful header once again in the 63rd minute.
It was beginning to look like a ding-dong affair as the Zambians drew level once again from a lovely corner-kick taken by Henry Mbuti.
It found a lurking Lasmond Phiri who pounced with a powerful header to beat goalkeeper Nwosu following another defensive blunder.
The match was however far from over as Flying Eagles’ coach Ladan Bosso made several tactical changes, including substituting Emmanuel Uchebu for Sarki in the 71st minute.
The move paid off almost immediately as substitute Uchebu scored Nigeria’s third goal from a simple tap-in.
That was after a lovely pass from another substitute following a defensive error by the Zambians in the 77th minute.
Bosso made another late tactical substitution in the 83rd minute, bringing in Samuel Lawal for Daga.
The move again paid off barely five minutes later as Lawal added a fourth for Nigeria.
This was after his solo effort which saw him race with the ball from midfield to place a right-footed shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Tembo from just outside the box
Volleyball : Nigeria Qualify for 2023 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U-19 World Championship
The Nigeria Under 19 female volleyball team on Monday qualified for the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U19 World Championship in Croatia and Hungary.
This is contained in a statement signed by Yiting Cao, International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Volleyball Department Project Manager.
FIVB congratulated Nigeria for qualifying for the Girls’ U19 World Championship.
The project manager advised Nigeria to confirm her participation to complete the attached Entry Form and return it by Feb.3, 2023.
The President of Nigeria Volleyball Federation of the (NVBF) Musa Nimrod while reacting to the new development,
lauded the decision of FIVB to admit three African Nations into the World Championship.
Nimrod said the championship will help develop the young players who are in the best form of their lives.
“The slot given to Nigeria by FIVB means we can showcase our talents to the world in Croatia and Hungary.
“The female players can also have the opportunity of being selected by scouts of foreign teams,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Cameroon and Egypt placed first and second respectively at the 2022 CAVB Volleyball Girls’ U19 African Championship in Abuja.
Cameroon and Egypt booked their tickets to the World Championship while Nigeria placed third.
NAN reports that the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Girls’ U19 World Championship, will hold from Aug.1 to Aug.11 in Croatia and Hungary (NAN)
Anambra Sports Commission Set to Reposition Sports Associations
The Anambra Sports Commission is set to unveil sports associations for sports development in the state, its Chairman Patrick-Estate Onyedum says.
Onyedum said this during a familiarisation visit to his office by Tony Nezianya, the newly elected Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) in Awka.
According to Onyedum, the Commission has taken inventory of the performance and contributions of the previous boards, whose tenures have elapsed.
”We have identified that this will be the way to begin our quest for sports development from the grassroots.
”There is no doubt that a few made sterling contributions for which we are indeed happy but a number of them are moribund.
”We shall seek the approval of the government to reactivate the associations by formally dissolving the previous boards,’’ Onyedum said.
He said the idea was to use the association to discover the numerous talents that abound in the state which must be made clear to the chairman of their executive committee members.
”We shall certainly have some goals in mind in reconstituting the boards. We shall allow new associations and new sports to be grown in our state.
‘’They must hold regular meetings and competitions by raising funds from the private sector in support of their sport that will invariably be supported by the government. Government cannot develop sports on its own,”.
Onyedum, who served the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, said he hoped to allow relatively new federations to be established in the state.
‘’We shall allow them so long as it will facilitate the human development index of the state as well as our quest for medals and honours to the state from local and international competitions.
‘’We do not have all the resources we require to develop our sports and infrastructure. We shall encourage those that will attract the development of infrastructure to support the growth and development of sports in Anambra.
Earlier, Nezianya requested Onyedum to allow federations like the Nigeria Triathlon Federation to start an affiliate Association in the state.
Triathlon, an Olympic sport, comprises three-in-one sports including Cycling, distance running and swimming, where an athlete can win an Olympic Gold by amassing points.
‘’There are some others that may wish to make similar requests. Let us welcome them. They may be the ones that can secure the state the honours they have been looking for,’’ he said.
Nezianya had served twice in two Olympiads from 2001 to 2005 and 2005 to 2009. (NAN)
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