Moyes drops Yakubu after late return from Ghana

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The Independent Football

Everton have dropped Nigeria's Yakubu for today's home match against Reading after his late return from the African Nations Cup. Yakubu was expected back at Goodison on Wednesday following Nigeria's quarter-final elimination by tournament hosts Ghana but did not turn up until yesterday, Everton said in a statement.

The club's manager David Moyes, declined however, to reveal whether Yakubu, Everton's leading scorer with nine Premier League goals, would be punished in any other way for his unauthorised late return. "All I would say is that it is an internal matter," Moyes said. "Yak has been in this morning, I have spoken to him and he won't be included in tomorrow's squad."

Yakubu's Nigeria team-mate Joseph Yobo was back at Everton by Wednesday's deadline. Everton made no mention of whether Yakubu would return to the squad for Wednesday's Uefa Cup last-32, first leg away to Brann Bergen of Norway.

Yakubu scored two of Nigeria's paltry tally of three goals in what was a disappointing African Nations Cup campaign. Moyes's Reading counterpart, Steve Coppell, meanwhile is convinced there must be a good reason behind Andre Bikey's astonishing semi-final sending off.

The Cameroon defender will miss tomorrow's final with Egypt after being sent off in the last minute of his nation's 1-0 win over hosts Ghana, for pushing over a medic who was on the pitch to treat Rigobert Song.

It was an incident that ended up being talked about all over the world but Coppell, Bikey's club manager, was certain it was nothing more than merely a moment of madness.

"He is not stupid," Coppell said. "Something must have happened to spark it, for him to charge over there and do what he did given what was at stake and what he is now going to be missing out on. It is the ultimate punishment and I can only imagine it was not on the spur of the moment. Something happened.

"He will be in pain. He will be in emotional turmoil after that. To have played in all the games, and played well in them, and miss the final, will hurt."

His club-mate Ibrahima Sonko, who had returned early from the competition after Senegal were eliminated at the group stages, also backed Bikey.

"I tried to call him but I couldn't get hold of him," Sonko said. "He over-reacted, but he had been pushed first. Bikey was just trying to protect this old man who was there to help Song."

The Ghana coach, Claude Le Roy, is to consider signing a contract extension offered despite his side's semi-final exit.

"I have been offered an extension until 2010 and I am honoured," he said.

"At the end of the game against Cameroon the sports minister told me he was happy with my work so I will think about it."