African Stars: Pick of the weekend's action
The weekend came and didn’t disappoint. From the mauling of Chelsea by Pep’s 6-star Manchester City, a dramatic Soweto derby stalemate and Benfica’s historic 10-0 dismantling of Nacional - it’s fair to say we were thoroughly entertained. Even more interesting is the growing number of African footballers grabbing headlines and superheroing the show for their sides. Here are the selected highlights involving such players.
En-Nesyri scores the first La Liga hatrick for Leganes
The 21-year-old Moroccan was perhaps the biggest winner of the weekend as he led Leganes to a 3-0 victory over sixth placed Real Betis. Youssef En-Nesyri made it 2-0 at the halfway mark of the match before adding a third after the restart, becoming the first ever player to score a Spanish La Liga hatrick in the club’s history. The youngster has since scored 7 times in his last 5 league matches for the side and is fast becoming a priceless gift for both club and country. It’s becoming clear that his 2018 FIFA world cup substitute strike in Lions of the Atlas’ 2-2 draw against Spain was not a fluke, he may be that goal getter that the North African country has been in need of. It’s actually turning out to be an interesting build up to the June 2019 AFCON finals.
Liverpool’s realise their African dream
Jurgen Klopp’s title chasing Liverpool regained top spot in the premier league for at least a few hours before Manchester City’s “rude” bashing of Chelsea and all of Matip, Keita, Mane and Salah made a telling contribution to the result. Cameroonian defender, Joel Matip partnered with the Reds’ chief of defence, Virgil Van Dijk to deliver yet another clean sheet, a league high of 14 for the Merseysiders. Naby Keita was central to a renewed Liverpool midfield which had been almost non-existent in recent weeks, holding onto the ball, sliding passes and going out at opponents in super sonic speed. The Guinea national team captain enjoyed his best game yet for Liverpool and is starting to justify the price attached to his services. As for the forwards, Mane headed Liverpool ahead in the 24th minute for his 12th premier league goal of the season, making it 4 consecutive league goals for the first time in the Senegalese’s career. The Egyptian king wrapped up the scoring in the 48th minute, adding to Gini Wijnaldum’s cool finish and making it 3 goals and 3 points for Liverpool on the day.
Soweto still belongs to The Ghost
One of the most anticipated club football matches on the continent ended in a 1-1 stalemate as Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs gave in everything to claim bragging rights over Johannesburg’s Soweto township. For Chiefs in particular, it sure tasted like a defeat as they are yet to beat the Buccaneers in the last 12 meetings between the two sides. Quite fairly, Amakhosi sure looked like the side with a score to settle as their troubled Amabhakabhaka in the opening stages, with Khama Billiat and Bernard Parker spearheading that attack.Their efforts were eventually rewarded in the 53rd minute as Billiat won a penalty which Daniel Cardoso calmly converted. They could have gotten a second moments later as Billiat latched onto a quick overhead pass, only for his effort to skew inches wide of the goal. As the long awaited victory seemed assured for the Lords, heartbreak came in the 80th minute as Thembinkosi Lorch was sent through on goal, expertly rounding off the goalkeeper to extend Pirates’ unbeaten run against their bitter rivals to a record 12.
Nigerian international, Alex Iwobi was on the score sheet as Arsenal saw off relegation threatened, Huddersfield Town to keep their top four hopes alive. Senegal’s M’baye Niang also grabbed a goal for Rennes who beat St Etienne 3-0 to move within a point of the league’s top 4 teams. It was a night to forget for Achraf Hakimi and Dortmund who blew away a 3 nil lead with only 25 minutes to go as they finished 3-3 against Hoffenheim whose Algerian striker, Ishak Belfodil struck twice to secure a point for the visitors. Wilfried Zaha returned to the score sheet as he grabbed an equalizer for Crystal Palace’s 1-1 draw against West Ham and so did Ivory Coast’s Sol Bamba who added a goal for Cardiff as they sealed an emotional win since learning of the demise of Emiliano Sala.