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Benitez the fall guy for Everton’s long malaise



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If any Everton manager could ill afford the club’s worst home defeat to Liverpool for 39 years, it was Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard was not accepted by many Toffees supporters from the minute he was appointed in June due to his previous role as a Champions League-winning manager with Liverpool.

A bright start briefly quietened the doubters. Everton sat fifth in the Premier League during the October international break having lost just one of their opening seven games.

They have taken just one point from the seven games since to plummet to 14th, just five points clear of the relegation zone ahead of the weekend fixtures.

Benitez heard his name ring around Goodison Park for the first time on Wednesday, but sadly for the 61-year-old it was coming from the small band of Liverpool fans in mocking celebration.

The relentless Reds ran out 4-1 winners, a scoreline that only flattered the home side, who were Liverpool’s main domestic rivals in the late 1980s.

Everton’s owner Farhad Moshiri took to the airwaves on Thursday to insist Benitez will be given more time.

But he was not present to face the barrage of abuse directed towards chairman Bill Kenwright in the directors’ box at full-time.

Chants of “sack the board” reflected the anger aimed at those in charge just for giving Benitez the job in the first place, never mind keeping him in charge as they slide towards a relegation battle.

Both Moshiri and Benitez have used injuries to key players as the shield for a terrible run of results.

“Rafa is a good manager and underperformance is largely due to the injuries,” Moshiri told Talksport.

“(Over the) next two weeks, we will get to a full squad and, in the meantime, results will improve.”

England international striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not featured since August, while Yerry Mina, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Richarlison have also had extended spells out injured.

“We are talking about key players missing and maybe these key players are also really important for the rest of the group to play at the level they can play,” said Benitez.

“We need to bring players back, and then we will be as strong as we were at the beginning (of the season).”

Benitez also pleaded the excuse of being handed limited resources after spending just £1.7 million ($2.5 million) in the transfer window on Demarai Gray.

That is unlikely to change come the January window, with Moshiri’s hands tied by financial fair play restrictions.

The British-Iranian businessman has poured in more than £500 million on players since taking over in 2016 but the vast majority of that money has been wasted, with tens of millions more spent on paying off managers.

Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva have all been sacked in the past five years, while Carlo Ancelotti left of his own accord when a second chance at managing Real Madrid came up in June.

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Moshiri may be sticking by his bold choice to go against the wishes of the supporters for now, but has previously been quick to react when the threat of relegation arises.

Dropping out of the top flight for the first time since 1954 is even more unthinkable with work under way on a new 53,000-capacity stadium at a cost of £500 million.

Benitez has kept his family home on Merseyside since 2004 despite stints in charge of Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Dalian Professional since.

But just six months in, he is already on borrowed time at Goodison.



I’m in Denmark to improve myself, says youthful Mukairu




Nigerian striker, Paul Mukairu, has expressed his excitement after his ₦900million move to former champions .of Denmark FC Copenhagen.

The 22-year-old winger dumped Turkish side Antalyaspor after three years with the former Turkish champions.

Mukairu has seen his reputation rise tremendously since he joined Antalyaspor in 2019. Within four months of his arrival in Turkey, he made it to the Antalyaspor first team, scoring three goals and assisting one in his first season.

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He spent last season on loan at Belgian Jupiler League side Anderlecht, where he scored two goals and assisted four in 23 league appearances.

Before his departure to Copenhagen, Mukairu had already scored three goals in 20 appearances for the Scorpions this season.

The Abuja-born forward is a quick player, and although he is a winger, he can play as a striker.

The pacy forward was all smiles at his unveiling and expressed his happiness whilst stating his readiness to become better at his new club.

“I feel very happy to be here, the welcome was really nice, it was amazing. I’m so happy to be in this great club.” He told Copenhagen TV.

“I have a lot to learn, and here is a good place to improve myself with the people surrounding me”, he added.

The 22-year-old is yet to make an appearance for the Super Eagles, but if he can continue with his eye-catching displays at his new side, it would only be a matter of time before it happens.


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Arsenal gave me a ‘good slap’, says Saliba




William Saliba has revealed how he was given a rude awakening on his arrival at Arsenal back in July 2019.

The French defender joined the Gunners from Saint-Etienne for around £27million.

But he is yet to play for the senior side and last summer was shipped off to Marseille on loan.

Now the 20-year-old has admitted his time in the reserves was like a ‘slap in the face’ and hasn’t ruled out a permanent move away from the Emirates.

He told RMC: “Before going to Arsenal, I said to myself I was going to play, I was sure, I was wondering who I would play alongside.

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“I arrive, I play zero matches. I played for the U23s. That gave me a good slap.

“Things go so fast in football. I don’t want to think about the future. I am going to give my all. Then there will be discussions in summer.”

Reports earlier this month suggested Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was preparing to give Saliba a chance in the senior squad next season.

The centre-back has turned in a string of impressive performances to propel Marseille to third in the Ligue 1 table.

According to L’Equipe, Arsenal are set to reject l‘OM’s attempts to make the deal permanent in the summer.

On his progress, Arteta said earlier this season: “I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan.

“But a lot of things have happened to him, he’s a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. And giving him three or four games is not enough.”



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Senegal bench on Mane recovery watch ahead E/Guinea clash



The Senegal technical bench are still monitoring captain Sadio Mane’s recovery ahead of Sunday’s AFCON 2021 quarterfinal date against Equatorial Guinea in Yaoundé.

Mane was taken off in the 70th minute of Senegal’s 2-0 victory over Cape Verde of their last 16 meeting on January 25 with a suspected concussion after earlier colliding with opposition goalkeeper Vozniha who was sent-off in the 56th minute following a second booking for dangerous play.

Senegal national team technical director Mayacine Mar told Sud Quotiden that the bench was observing both Mane and Bamba Dieng who sustained a knock in training.

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“Bamba had a little knock but it’s not bad. The doctors preferred to keep him in treatment. Sadio too, but he is doing very well. He feels no pain. He will be operational for the quarter-finals. Maybe tomorrow he will resume training,” Mar said.

Mane is Senegal’s leading scorer at AFCON 2021 on two goals after scoring his second of the tournament with Senegal’s first goal in the victory over Cape Verde.

Senegal are chasing a second successive AFCON final appearance after finishing second in 2019.


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