African Players In Europe: Emmanuel Dennis, Awoniyi, Mane Steal Show
Senegal talisman Sadio Mane scored two goals — one soft and one superb — at the weekend to take Liverpool into the FA Cup final with a 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Wembley.
The Reds will face Chelsea in the May 14 showpiece final — a repeat of the League Cup final won by Liverpool on penalties after a goalless final.
Apart from his Liverpool heroics, Mane helped Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in February and qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar one month later.
Here, AFP Sport highlights Africans who starred in European leagues and cup competitions:
ENGLAND SADIO MANE (Liverpool)
Mane was the difference between Liverpool and Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final as he struck twice in a thrilling win for the Reds. His persistence earned his first and Liverpool’s second goal of the day as he caught City stand-in goalkeeper Zack Steffen in possession to tackle the ball into the net. His second was as sweet as the first was scrappy as Mane volleyed in Thiago Alcantara’s pass to round off a stunning move from Jurgen Klopp’s men.
EMMANUEL DENNIS (Watford)
A 10th Premier League goal of the season for Dennis could not prevent Watford slipping closer to relegation after a 2-1 defeat by Brentford. The Nigerian’s fierce strike that flew in at the near post was controversially allowed to stand despite Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr appearing to be offside in the build-up. A 10th consecutive home defeat leaves the Hornets still six points adrift of safety with just six games to play.
GERMANY KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG (Hertha Berlin)
The 35-year-old made his first start since October and bossed midfield as Hertha climbed out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at Augsburg. “We needed a figure like Prince. He has shown how important he is for us,” said Hertha coach Felix Magath as the Ghana midfielder threw himself into tackles.
TAIWO AWONIYI (Union Berlin)
Awoniyi shrugged off his marker and banged in his 18th goal for Union this season to open the scoring in a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. The Nigeria striker is a fans’ favourite at Union and threw his playing shirt into the home crowd after being substituted with 10 minutes remaining.
FRANCE KARL TOKO-EKAMBI (Lyon)
The Cameroon forward, who starred in his country’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals on home soil this year, scored twice in Lyon’s 6-1 mauling of Bordeaux. His first goal was a gift after a farcical miskick by the Bordeaux goalkeeper, while his second goal was a delightful chipped finish. Toko-Ekambi has 16 goals this season, including 10 in Ligue 1. Lyon are eighth, four points outside the European qualifying spots.
JODEL DOSSOU (Clermont)
The Benin international equalised in a 1-1 draw at fellow strugglers Metz. It was his second goal in as many games, after Dossou netted in last week’s 6-1 home hammering by Paris Saint-Germain. Clermont are in the relegation play-off place, five points above bottom side Metz and one point from outright safety.
ITALY M’BALA NZOLA (Spezia)
The Angolan international featured in probably the strangest moment in the weekend’s Serie A action. He was subbed on and then off again just 10 minutes later in Spezia’s 3-1 defeat to Inter Milan because he couldn’t take off his earring. Brought on in the 60th minute with his team a goal down, the 25-year-old was almost immediately stopped by match officials and ordered to remove the jewellery, a task which was beyond both Nzola and the Spezia coaching staff. Eventually he had to admit defeat and coach Thiago Motta was forced to bring on Janis Antiste in his place.