African Players In Europe: Osimhen Scores 13th Serie A Goal


Napoli’s Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen celebates after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Napoli vs Sassuolo at Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples, on April 30, 2022.
Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen netted his 13th Serie A goal over the weekend as Napoli beat Sassuolo. 

Also, Naby Keita enjoyed a rare day in the spotlight for second-placed Liverpool by scoring the goal that earned a 1-0 Premier League win at Newcastle United and kept the pressure on leaders Manchester City.

Guinea midfielder Keita usually operates in the shadows for the Reds while Senegal talisman Sadio Mane and Egypt captain Mohamed Salah take turns at fulfilling the star role.

A few hours after Liverpool triumphed to go top, City thumped lowly Leeds United 4-0 to regain a one-point advantage with four rounds to play in a thrilling English title chase.

READ ALSOEverton Shock Chelsea To Boost Premier League Survival Hopes

Here, AFP Sport highlights some of the top African performances in European leagues at the weekend:

ENGLAND NABY KEITA (Liverpool)

The match was only 19 minutes old when three players brought into the side by Reds manager Jurgen Klopp combined to break the deadlock. James Milner snapped into a tackle on Fabian Schar and, while Newcastle were furious no free-kick was given, the visitors played on with Diogo Jota finding Keita, who kept his cool to round Martin Dubravka and fire into the unguarded net for quadruple-seeking Liverpool.

WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace)

The Ivory Coast striker came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner as Palace won 2-1 at Southampton. Not fit to start because of ankle problems, Zaha secured all three points for the London club when he cleverly rolled away from Southampton centre-back Jan Bednarek and let fly with a low shot from the edge of the box that went in via the post for his 12th league goal this season.

SPAIN SAMUEL CHUKWUEZE (Villarreal)

Chukwueze in action during the match. [email protected] CF

 

The 22-year-old grabbed his first La Liga goal since last December, but that could not prevent his side from suffering a 2-1 loss at Alaves. But the Nigerian and his teammates’ focus will be on their Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday when the ‘Yellow Submarine’ will be looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit.

ITALY VICTOR OSIMHEN and KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)

Napoli’s two African stars were key to Luciano Spalletti’s side thrashing Sassuolo 6-1 and securing Champions League football next season. Senegal captain Koulibaly led a blitz that put Napoli four goals ahead in the first 21 minutes by heading home the opener from a Lorenzo Insigne corner before Nigeria forward Osimhen netted in almost identical fashion to take his Serie A tally to 13 in 24 appearances.

FRANCE KARL TOKO EKAMBI (Lyon)

The Cameroon international continued his fine run of form with a late goal in Lyon’s 3-0 win at second-placed Marseille. Toko Ekambi has now scored five goals in as many games.

ANDY DELORT (Nice)

The Algerian’s 13th Ligue 1 goal of the season gave Nice a crucial 1-0 win at struggling Bordeaux which kept their Champions League hopes alive. Nice trail third-placed Rennes by two points with three matches left in the season.

GERMANY ERIC MAXIM CHOUPO-MOTING (Bayern Munich)

The Cameroon striker started alongside Robert Lewandowski in a 3-1 defeat at Mainz as newly-crowned Bundesliga champions Bayern suffered a hangover from their title celebrations. A week after being confirmed champions for the 10th consecutive season, Bayern were 2-0 down before Choupo-Moting’s pass found Lewandowski, who slipped his marker and fired in.

AFP

Emery’s Villarreal Eye Another Giant-Killing At Bayern Munich

Villareal’s players celebrate at the end of during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between Villarreal CF and Bayern Munich at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on April 6, 2022. Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

“We’ve beaten one of the best teams in the world,” said captain Dani Parejo after Villarreal secured a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final last week. But he knows it might not be enough.

Villarreal enjoyed one of the finest nights in the club’s history with a superb performance at La Ceramica that caught the six-time European champions cold.

Unai Emery’s side will take a one-goal lead into Tuesday’s second leg in Germany, yet the overriding feeling was regret as a series of missed chances kept Bayern alive.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Face ‘Incredibly High’ Challenge To Stay In Champions League – Tuchel

“We produced a tremendous performance and if we’re honest we should have won by more,” said Villarreal midfielder Giovani Lo Celso.

Instead, a one-goal deficit is far from insurmountable for a team that has scored 17 goals in their last five games at home and 20 in their last four European matches at the Allianz Arena.

Villarreal have made a habit of neutralising glamorous opponents, even if their La Liga position of seventh shows they can struggle against modest opposition.

While Emery’s forensic analysis and in-depth video sessions might stifle the spontaneity needed to beat limited sides, it means his team are tactically astute and difficult to break down.

In the past year, Villarreal have beaten the Europa League champions, the Coppa Italia winners, the Bundesliga champions and the FA Cup winners. They also defeated Manchester United to win last season’s Europa League.

In Spain, they are unbeaten this season against defending champions Atletico Madrid and leaders Real Madrid.

After the stunning 3-0 victory in Turin that knocked out Juventus in the last 16, Villarreal will believe they can complete the job in Germany and reach the club’s first Champions League semi-final since 2006.

Win or lose in Munich, the win against Bayern in the home leg will go down in the Villarreal history books.

‘Biggest challenge’ 

While Bayern were winning a third consecutive European Cup in 1976, Villarreal were being relegated to the fourth tier in Spain. When Bayern won their fifth in 2013, Villarreal had just been promoted back to the top flight.

The population of Vila-real, at just over 50,000, could fit inside Bayern’s stadium with 25,000 seats to spare. No smaller town has produced a team to win a European title.

For the majority of their history Villarreal lay in the third division until Spanish billionaire Fernando Roig took over in 1998.

Roig has improved the stadium, the training ground and the team. Villarreal signed players such as Riquelme, Diego Forlan, Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla.

They have been a fixture in the top flight for all but one of the 22 seasons this century.

With stability secured, Emery was hired to take the team to the next level, challenge for trophies and La Liga’s top four.

They have disappointed in the league but cup success has kept Emery’s stock high. He was tempted by the Newcastle job in November but turned it down, the prospect of a European run too tantalising.

Similar reasoning kept local-born star defender Pau Torres at the club he joined as a five-year-old, despite interest last summer from Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

The only question now is whether the momentous win over Bayern Munich will be remembered as the pinnacle of an incredible run, or the basis for something more.

“Tuesday will be the biggest challenge of my career as coach,” Emery said. “And for the club as well, for the players, for lots of people here.”

AFP

Former Arsenal Coach Unai Emery Joins Villarreal

Former Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Unai Emery gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 1, 2019. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Villarreal announced on Thursday that former Arsenal and Sevilla boss Unai Emery is taking over as the La Liga club’s coach from the sacked Javi Calleja.

The 48-year-old Emery was dismissed by Arsenal last November with the Gunners on a seven-match winless streak, their worst run since 1992.

He led Sevilla to three straight Europa League titles from 2014-16 before winning five major trophies with French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

“Villarreal CF has reached an agreement with Unai Emery for the Basque manager to be Yellows head coach for the next three seasons,” Villarreal said in a statement.

Villarreal parted ways with former player Calleja this week despite him taking the club to a fifth-placed finish in La Liga.

Influential midfielder Santi Cazorla, who has since joined Qatari side Al-Sadd, also left the Estadio de la Ceramica.

Emery reached the Europa League final last season with Arsenal, losing to London rivals Chelsea.

Villarreal are set to return to Europe’s second-tier competition next term.

 

AFP

Cameroonian Striker Toko Ekambi Joins Lyon On Loan

Karl Toko Ekambi of Villarreal during the spanish league football match played between CD Leganes and Villarreal CF at Butarque Stadium in Leganes, Madrid, Spain, on September 14, 2019

 

Cameroonian international striker Karl Toko Ekambi has joined Lyon on loan from Villarreal until the end of the season, the French club announced on Monday.

The 27-year-old, who has scored six goals this season, arrives at a Lyon side sitting seventh in Ligue 1, seven points adrift of Rennes in the third and final Champions League place.

Toko Ekambi will provide Lyon coach Rudi Garcia with another attacking option after winger Memphis Depay was ruled out until the end of the season after suffering a knee injury.

Lyon will pay four million euros ($4.44 million) as a loan fee, with the deal including an option to make Toko Ekambi’s stay permanent for 11.5 million euros.

The forward scored 17 goals in the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season for Angers, before netting 18 times in all competitions for Spanish outfit Villarreal last term.

Lyon face Lille in the French League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday, take on Nice in the French Cup last 16 later this month and are also still in the Champions League, where they will next play Juventus.

AFP

Super Eagles Forward, Samuel Chukwueze Rejoins Villareal

Super Eagles winger, Samuel Chukwueze.

 

Ahead of the 2019-20 La Liga season, the Super Eagles winger, Samuel Chukwueze, has rejoined his Spanish club, Villarreal.

Chukwueze, who scored once as Nigeria finished third in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, was given an extended break.

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The Yellow Submarine took to Twitter to confirm his pre-season arrival on Monday.

“He’s here! @chukwueze_8 started his special #YellowsPreseason training programme at the Training Ground after taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations with @NGSuperEagles. Great to have you back, Samu!” the club said.

The 20-year-old scored eight goals in 38 appearances across all competitions last season, to help Javier Calleja’s men finish 14th in LaLiga.

Chukweze will be expected to play a part when Villarreal take on La Nucia in a pre-season game on Wednesday.

More Misery For Madrid After Villarreal’s First Win At Bernabeu

 

Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane react during the match    Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Struggling Real Madrid risk falling further behind in La Liga after a cheeky late chip from Pablo Fornals saw Villarreal escape with a 1-0 win on Saturday, their first ever victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Fornals struck with three minutes left to leave Zinedine Zidane’s wasteful side fourth and a whopping 16 points behind runaway league leaders Barcelona, a deficit which will turn into 19 should Barca win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

“We didn’t deserve to lose. We had the better chances but the ball did not want to go in,” said under-fire Zidane after Real’s second straight home league defeat.

Villarreal meanwhile move up to fifth on 31 points thanks to midfielder Fornals’ stunning goal, which puts Javier Calleja’s side just a point behind off-form Madrid.

Real fired off nearly 30 shots but their accuracy was wayward, with Cristiano Ronaldo among the worst culprits in front of goal.

“We did everything we could and there is no explanation for why the ball didn’t go in,” added Zidane, who signed a new contract to keep him at Real until 2020 earlier this week.

“I can’t criticise my players for anything. This is a bad spell, nothing more.”

So often Real’s saviour, Ronaldo had a bad day at the office, with his worst miss coming just before half-time, when the five-time Ballon d’Or winner managed to shoot straight at Sergio Asenjo after being laid on by Isco in front of a practically open goal just yards out.

The Portuguese was livid with the referee, as he thought that he was tripped by Daniele Bonera just before he shot.

Real carried on where they left off in the second period, but after failing to break down the resolute visitors, Fornals stepped up to make history and pile the pressure on Zidane.

Fornals clipped home his 87th-minute winner just after it looked like Enes Unal had fluffed his team’s chance to snatch the three points after a blistering counter-attack following a Real Madrid corner.

Turk Unal shot straight at Keylor Navas when put through by Denis Cheryshev, but with Navas still recovering from making the save Fornals lifted the ball over the flailing Madrid stopper.

“You’re always happy when you get three points at such a difficult ground,” said Calleja afterwards.

“We knew we could make history today, we believed.”

AFP

Barca’s Luis Enrique Still Hopeful Of Winning La Liga

Barcelona hosts fifth-placed Villarreal at Camp Nou on Saturday, in a match both sides need to win.

Coach Luis Enrique on Friday praised the hard work of Villarreal during the season and said it is obvious that his team needs to win all remaining matches in order to keep their hopes to win La Liga.

“When the end of the championship approaches the pressure is divided. It is obvious that the only condition we have to meet to have any option is to win all the matches and that’s what we are going to try to do. From here on, it will depend on what we do and later what our rivals do,” Enrique said in a press conference on Friday.

Villarreal, known as “The Yellow Submarine”, have won five of their last six, including an away victory over Atletico Madrid, as they make a late bid for the fourth and the final Champions League berth with Sevilla stumbling.

And Enrique believes they would be tough opponents to overcome.

“I would look at what they do as a team. They are perfectly organised with the ball, capable of generating danger in the associative game and at the defensive level they defend very well, folded in their own side, they generate difficulties and create offensive transitions,” he said.

“They are a rival that by looking at their numbers and the way they play you can see that they are a very hard working team and one of the most difficult to take on in La Liga.”

Barca’s bitter rivals Real Madrid are aiming to remain in pole position for a first La Liga title in five years when they travel to relegated Granada on Saturday night.

Incredible Comeback: Liverpool Score Four To Sink Dortmund In Europa

LiverpoolLiverpool have qualified for the Europa League semi-finals with a dramatic fight back to defeat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 at Anfield.

Goals from Origi, Coutinho, Sakho and Lovren helped Klopp triumph in the dying minutes of the game against his former club on Thursday night.

Two quick goals by Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the fifth minute and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the ninth minute half had left Liverpool shocked and on the verge of exit without a fight.

Pressure mounted for the fans as the setback was followed by series of missed chances that left the Anfield faithful frustrated.

The second half started well for Liverpool and the early pressure paid off in the 48th minute through Origi but just when Liverpool thought they were launching a comeback, Marco Reus silenced the home fans with a lovely finish, which left Klopp visibly furious.

Two goals down and three away goals already for Dortmund with less than 30 minutes to play, Liverpool needed three goals without conceding any more goals to win on aggregate, having drawn the first leg 1-1 in Germany.

LiverpoolThey made it 3-4 on aggregate in the 66th minute after James Milner played a one-two with Coutinho on the edge of the box, with the Brazilian star guiding home a great strike.

The Brazilian turned the provider of the equalizer in the 77th minutes as he whipped a corner in from the left-hand side with Sturridge managing to do enough to let the ball run past him at the near post!

Former PSG centre-back, Mamadou Sakho was quickest to react and turned home a close-range finish to make it 4-4 on aggregate.

Anfield went wild and they could only pray a complete miracle. One more goal and Liverpool would be in the semis. Both coaches made changes to make the best of the final minutes of the game.

There were four minutes of stoppage time and the pressure got to Schmelzer who picked up a yellow card for petulance, with Dortmund’s tempers flaring after a free-kick was awarded to Liverpool.

The Reds, however, maintained focus and the free-kick was taken short by Milner to Sturridge, with the latter then feeding the former to the right byline. He hung up a lovely cross, with Lovren rising highest at the back post to guide home a thumping header.

It was the 91st minutes and Liverpool had done the unthinkable; fighting back from being 1-3 down to defeat Dortmund 4-3 and qualifying for the semi-final 5-4 on aggregate.

This could go down as one of the greatest nights in Europa League history.

UEFA Concludes Draws For Champions League, Europa League

Champions LeagueEuropean football governing body have concluded the draws for the last eight of the UEFA Champions League.

Defending champions, Barcelona will face fellow Spaniards Atletico Madrid, runners-up two seasons ago.

Barca, bidding to become the first team to win the trophy two seasons in a row, will get the chance to avenge their defeat at the same stage two years ago when Atletico won 1-0 at home after a 1-1 away draw.

Paris St Germain, will face fellow big spenders Manchester City in the other outstanding tie, with the first leg at the Parc Des Princes.

Ten-times champions Real Madrid will face German side Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich will face Portugal’s Benfica.

Europa League

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will return to Borussia Dortmund for the first time after the sides were drawn together in the Europa League quarter-finals.

It will be the first time Klopp has returned to his former club after deciding to leave Dortmund at the end of 2014-15 season following seven years with the club.

Defending champions, Sevilla, who are looking to win the Europa League for a third year in a row, have been drawn against domestic rivals Athletic Bilbao.

Sporting Braga will take on Shakhtar Donetsk while Villareal will be up against Sparta Pargue.

Europa League: Liverpool Defeat Man-U As Tottenham Lose

Europa LeagueThursday night ended in disappointment for two English teams, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United playing away in the Europa League.

Manchester United lost to Liverpool 2-0  at Anfield in their first meeting in Europe with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino.

The hosts made the breakthrough in the first half when Daniel Sturridge beat David De Gea from the penalty spot after Nathaniel Clyne was brought down by Memphis Depay.

Liverpool midfielders Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho wasted great opportunities to double the home side’s lead before half-time.

However, Roberto Firmino handed the Reds a commanding 2-0 first-leg lead at Anfield after a close-range finish with 17 minutes remaining of the first leg.

Tottenham were shocked by in-form Borrusia Dortmund 3-0 in Germany.

Manchester United and Arsenal target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave the Germans a first-half lead. Marco Reus hit two after the break to make the Germans the favourites to clinch a place in the quarter-finals in second leg.

In other Europa League round of 16 first leg matches played on Thursday night, Swiss Side Basel played a goalless draw with Spanish club Sevilla while Turkish giants Fenerbache beat Portugal’s Sporting Braga 1-0.

Ukrainian power house Shakhtar Donetsk beat Anderlecht of Belgium 3-1 and Athletic Bilbao beat Valencia 1-0 in an all-Spanish encounter,

Sparta Prague played a 1-1 draw with Ogenyi Onazi’s Lazio while Villareal beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 at the Estadio El Madrigal.

Real draw at Villareal, cuts lead to six points

Real Madrid saw their lead in La Liga cut to six points on Wednesday after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Villarreal and ended the match with two players sent off.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 33rd goal of the season in the 62nd minute, but Marcos Senna equalised with eight minutes remaining.

Things got worse for Real as Sergio Ramos and Mesut Ozil were both red-carded in the closing moments while coach Jose Mourinho and assistant Rui Faria were sent to the stands.

Barcelona had defeated Granada 5-3 on Tuesday to keep their title hopes alive with superstar Lionel Messi taking his career club goals tally to a record 234.

Villarreal, who are now four points from the relegation zone, had the better of the first period against Real.

They had a number of chances to take the lead, the most notable when Iker Casillas saved well on 20 minutes after a Sergio Ramos slip allowed Nilmar to bear down on goal.

Villarreal’s dominance was so evident that Mourinho made a tactical change in midfield on 28 minutes replacing Lass Diarra, who had picked up a yellow card, with Jose Callejon.

The home team then had a strong claim for a penalty turned down on 37 minutes when Alvaro Arbolea appeared to pull the shirt of Neymar at a corner.

The game was becoming increasingly scrappy when on 61 minutes Ronaldo and Ozil exchanged passes, the latter with a delightful back-flick, for the Portuguese star to round Diego Lopez in the Villarreal goal and put Madrid ahead.

Madrid were now in control and four minutes later Javier Camunas had to make a goal-line clearence with his head after Sami Khedira hooked the ball towards the net.

Villarreal did not look like equalising until Hamit Altintop fouled Joan Oriol on the edge of the area and Senna stepped up to convert the free-kick from 20 yards with eight minutes left.

In the aftermath of that decision, Mourinho was sent to the stands and then a minute later Sergio Ramos was dismissed for a second yellow card.

It was his 14th red card as a Real Madrid player.

Ozil was then given his marching orders with a direct red for protesting.

The game finished with nine-man Madrid desperately looking for the winner but it was not forthcoming and they had to be content with only a point for the second time in four days.

Earlier, third-placed Valencia slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to Zaragoza with the rock-bottom club taking the three points despite finishing, like Real Madrid, with only nine players.

Pablo Hernandez put Valencia ahead, but two goals from Antonio Galdeano ‘Apono’ gave Zaragoza some hope of escaping relegation.

The victory was deserved for a Zaragoza team who had Pablo Alvarez sent off on 20 minutes for a foul on Aritz Aduriz when he was the last defender.

Franco Zuculini received his marching orders with three minutes remaining for a second yellow card.

The result means Zaragoza are finally within touching distance of the rest of their struggling rivals after a number of weeks adrift, only two points behind Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander.

Levante battled back from a goal down to beat Real Sociedad 3-1 and move just three points behind Valencia.

Carlos Vela put Sociedad ahead after just five minutes, but Jose Barkero replied almost immediately from the penalty spot against his former club when Inigo Martinez tripped Morroccan Nabil El Zhar.

Arouna Kone then powered home a right footed shot just before the interval to give his side the lead.

Real Sociedad had midfielder Gorka Elustondo sent off on 57 minutes for a second yellow card before Xavi Torres stabbed home from close range in the last minute to wrap the game up.

Gijon lost 3-2 at home to Mallorca for who Alvaro Gimenez got the winner with 13 minutes remaining.

Colombian forward Radamel Falcao grabbed two goals for Atletico Madrid to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 and improve their chances of European competition next season.

Javi Martinez grabed a late consolation but the home side deserved the victory against a Bilbao side that has now lost three league games since their Europa League heroics against Manchester United began.

Falcao now has 19 league strikes for the season.