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Ronaldo hits double on his Man U debut

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Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday needed just one half of football to get back among the goals for Manchester United, with the Portuguese superstar scoring twice on his second debut for the club.

The Portuguese gave the Old Trafford faithful what they had come to see featuring in the match against Newcastle as the hosts ran out 4-1 winners. The superb performance came 12 years after his last goal for Red Devils.

It looked like being a frustrating opening 45 minutes for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner against Newcastle, but Old Trafford erupted in stoppage-time when the deadlock was finally broken.

The vast majority of those in attendance were there to witness the return of a prodigal son, and he did not disappoint when giving the masses what they wanted.

How did Ronaldo’s goal come about?

The 36-year-old, who was handed a started berth by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer , took a while to get his eye back in after 12 years away from a Premier League stage.

A couple of half-chances passed him by early on; with one wild swing with his left foot drawing ironic cheers and a knowing smile from United’s No.7.

He was, however, to show in the closing stages of the first half that he has lost none of his touch in front of goal.

Mason Greenwood drifted inside off the right flank and hit a hopeful shot that took the slightest of deflections.

That was enough to put Newcastle keeper Freddie Woodman off and he could only spill the ball to the feet of Ronaldo, who reacted quickest inside the six-yard box for a tap-in.

Ronaldo hit 84 Premier League goals for United during his first stint with the club.

He had scored his first Premier League goal since May 2009 (v Man City); his gap of 12 years and 124 days between goals is the second-longest between two strikes by any player in the competition’s history, after Matt Jackson (13y 187d, 1993-2006).

Some 12 years later and an all-time great player is back in the groove, with Newcastle unable to contain his very obvious threat.

They did restore parity in the 56th minute through Javier Manquillo, but they were not level for long.

Ronaldo’s second goal

With Solskjaer’s side looking for a hero to step up on a day that a wave of optimism poured down from the stands, Ronaldo was – as is often the case – the man to step up.

He was given another helping hand by Woodman when grabbing his second of the game in the 62nd minute, but he and the rest of his team-mates cared little about that.

Ronaldo was sent racing through on goal by Luke Shaw, with a perfectly weighted pass taking him into the area.

He got his head down and fired goal-wards with his left boot, with the ball slipping between Woodman’s legs and into the back of the net.

Bruno Fernandes curled home a brilliant effort from long range to put the game beyond doubt, before Jesse Lingard netted deep into injury time to make it 4-1 and ensure that Ronaldo’s second ‘debut’ would finish on a high note in front of elated Old Trafford fans.

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Nigeria win WAFU B U17 Championship in Ghana

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Golden Eaglets

Five-time world champions, the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria edged the Young Stallions of Burkina Faso 2-1 in Friday’s WAFU U17 final played at the Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana.

Forward Abubakar Abdullahi had threatened the Burkinabe rear as early as the 8th minute when his low drive streamed away from goal, but in the 22nd minute, he rose highest in the box to powerfully nod Emmanuel Michael’s perfect delivery into the net for Nigeria’s first goal.

In the 34th minute, Abdullahi missed a golden opportunity to make it two for himself and for Nigeria, but he fluffed his lines, allowing the Stallions a respite. The miss would knock hard seven minutes later, when Abdulramane Ouedraogo, also with a header, equalized for Burkina Faso.

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Two minutes into the second half, Abdullahi got his second and Nigeria’s second, taking the Golden Eaglets to a 2-1 lead. However, 12 minutes later, he should have made it a hat-trick and Nigeria’s third but he lost the opportunity.

That loss could once more have proved costly, as the Stallions broke forward, only to see Nigeria goalkeeper Richard Odoh come up with a magnificent save.

In the 67th minute, Ebube Okeke rocked the crossbar from 25 yards, but there were to be no more goals and Nigeria collected a second regional diadem at the youth level five weeks after the U20 boys defeated neighbours Benin Republic in the final to win the WAFU B competition in the Niger Republic.

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Why Nottingham Forest move may be perfect for Taiwo Awoniyi’s growth

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Taiwo Awoniyi

The Super Eagles forward is set to complete a move to Nottingham and will become the Reds’ first proof of seriousness on their Premier League return 

For seven years, Taiwo Awoniyi was finding his foot in European football. His move to Liverpool had come as a stroke of the most unimaginable but such was his hard work that the Reds kept tabs with his progress.

He met his heroes in England, wined and dined with them and was offered an opportunity to train with some of the best players in the world. Those moments would have formed a halo for the young Awoniyi at the time – a circle of different lights, and one he would have been desirous of joining if he had his way.

Loan moves took him everywhere, from the Netherlands to Belgium and Germany as he tried to get a break and represent the Nigerian national team. The dream was to represent Liverpool, at the highest level of European football and it came so close yet far away.

Awoniyi would, this time, by the strength of his hard work settle for the lesser Reds, hoping to take the Premier League by storm as they ended their 23-year wait to play in the top flight.

Going by what the attacker has shown at Union Berlin, there’s a clear promise there. When he’s supported and is settled, he can be a real handful. His strengths are as clear as his weaknesses and that eases Steve Cooper’s decision to turn him to an even better spectacle.

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Premier League accommodates surprises 

The Premier League takes no prisoners but attackers with similar profiles as Awoniyi’s have done the spectacular in the league until they can’t dig beyond deep. In Odion Ighalo, there’s an immediate example of what’s possible for an attacker without the glaring eyes.

This first wave is expected of the attacker and it will be an advantage if he pulls it.

In terms of style, there’s no much difference between the Premier League and the Bundelisga but the pressure-intensive style of the English top flight asks begging questions on most days. It has seen forwards from the German league struggle to get going in the Premier League but there has hardly been any as willing to hustle in the box as Awoniyi.

He has shown he can adapt to new systems as long as there’s a cushion behind him to pick the pieces of his heavy work. The quality Liverpool found in him as a raw youngster are still very evident in his game. Not the finest ball player from the technical point of view but his devastation in the box calls for respect.

Improved quality may be an advantage

Like Cyriel Dessers, his Super Eagles teammate rightly pointed out last weekend, Awoniyi’s quality can be judged by the quality of his runs more than the chances he missed.

He was the third player with the highest number of missed chances in the Bundesliga last season according to Whoscored. The first two on the list – Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski and RB Leipzig’s Andre Silva are elite Bundesliga strikers and a glaring example that the Nigerian is in good company. The obvious reason they are there is because they get into good positions and if Awoniyi keeps this an art, he will get enough opportunities and with improved goalscoring, he will only get better. He is young and still improving and Nottingham Forest is just a step on the way to something bigger, in his head.

The aim is to play for the biggest teams in Europe, and that may only happen if he proves the point he desires.

The Reds or The Iron Ones: Something about starting small

In terms of profile, Nottingham Forest are somewhat similar in status and methods to Union Berlin, from a Premier League point of view and if the forward gets anything near the support he got at the German capital, he may be aiming even higher next season.

He, however has many doubts to quash, especially of how he will manage to make his weaknesses less visible and make his strengths count.

With the Reds owner, Evangelos Marinakis putting it all into the project, Awoniyi may just become a part of a beautiful, big presence of small boys in the league. That, however won’t come on a platter of gold, as history has shown. The cities are not usually accommodating for the newbies.

Should Nottingham Forest struggle to sail, as many already expect, the Nigerian forward must swim and use every opportunity he gets to charge for the future.

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Latest FIFA ranking: Super Eagles suffer drop despite Sao Tome and Principe thrashing

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Super Eagles

Nigeria’s perfect win record in the opening stages of the Afcon qualifiers did not push the three-time African champions up the global ranking

FIFA, the world’s top football governing body, has released its ranking for June, with the Super Eagles now ranked fourth on the continent and 31st on the planet.

The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations champions were previously ranked 30th globally and third in Africa, behind only top-ranking Senegal and second-place Morocco.

But the Super Eagles dropped a step down to make room for Tunisia, the Carthage Eagles now 30th in the world and third on the continent. Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions complete the top five ranking teams in Africa.

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Surprisingly, Nigeria’s victories in their last two competitive matches failed to boost their status.

The Super Eagles defeated Sierra Leone 2-1 in Abuja to kickoff the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign on a winning note.

Napoli’s Victor Osimhen then scored four to power the Jose Peseiro-led team to a historic 10-0 win over Sao Tome and Principe in Morocco four days later.

Nigeria’s recent two international friendly matches, however, appeared to have affected the national team’s standing.

The three-time Afcon champions lost to both Mexico (2-1) and Ecuador (1-0) in the United States.

Elsewhere, former world champions Brazil retain their place at the top of the standings, having replaced Belgium in March.

Belgium, Argentina, France, and England make up the top five.

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