African players in Europe: Mixed fortunes for stars
The last three African Player of the Year award winners experienced mixed fortunes in the English Premier League at the weekend.
Algerian Riyad Mahrez (2016 winner) came off the bench to score the goal that earned leaders Manchester City a 1-0 win at Bournemouth.
But Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2015) missed a last-minute penalty for Arsenal in a 1-1 north London derby draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
Egyptian Mohamed Salah (2017, 2018) squandered several scoring chances for Liverpool in a goalless Merseyside showdown at Everton that prevented his club regaining top spot.
MOHAMED SALAH/SADIO MANE (Liverpool)
Salah’s goal drought continued as he missed two big chances and Senegalese Mane also failed to find the net in Liverpool’s draw at Everton. Either side of half-time Salah failed to beat Jordan Pickford and then allowed Michael Keane to make a last-ditch tackle when clean through on goal, leaving the reigning African Player of the Year with just one goal in his last seven games.
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)
It was also a weekend to forget for Aubameyang as the striker missed a last-minute penalty as Arsenal’s north London derby against Tottenham ended 1-1.
RIYAD MAHREZ (Manchester City)
Mahrez has struggled to make an impression in his debut season at City, but sealed a vital three points for the champions in a 1-0 win at Bournemouth by prodding home his first Premier League goal since December.
YAN VALERY (Southampton)
France-born Valery, who has opted to represent Tunisia at international level, scored his first Southampton goal with a stunning strike into the top corner against Manchester United at Old Trafford, although United eventually went on to win 3-2.
WILFRIED ZAHA/CHEIKHOU KOUYATE (Crystal Palace)
Senegal midfielder Kouyate was credited with an assist, but Ivorian international Zaha did all the work with a weaving run and finish for Crystal Palace’s third goal in a 3-1 win at Burnley.
ABDOULAYE BA (Rayo Vallecano)
It was a bad day for 28-year-old defender Ba as he was handed a straight red card in Vallecano’s 2-0 loss at home to Girona. The Senegalese was dismissed between two goals for Cristhian Stuani as his side stayed second-bottom in La Liga, two points from safety, after a fifth consecutive defeat.
KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)
Senegal international Koulibaly had a mixed evening for Napoli as his side surrendered all hope of pegging back all-conquering Juventus with a 2-1 home defeat that left them 16 points behind the reigning champions. The centre-back gave a typically dominant individual display — impressing on the left side of a back three after Napoli were reduced to 10 men midway through the first half and having a hand in Jose Callejon pulling one back after going two goals and a man down at half-time. Individual errors from others, however, cost his team the opportunity to become the first to beat Juve in the league this season and left them with next to no chance of a first “Scudetto” since the days of Diego Maradona.
ACHRAF HAKIMI (Borussia Dortmund)
The 20-year-old Morocco right-back made a glaring mistake for Augsburg’s second goal when Ji Dong-won pounced on his lazy second-half pass in Dortmund’s shock 2-1 defeat. With Dortmund hosting Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday and needing to overturn a 3-0 defeat from the first leg, the result was a significant blow for the German leaders and for Hakimi, who also made an error in the first leg in London.
ISHAK BELFODIL (Hoffenheim)
Hoffenheim’s Algerian striker scored his eighth goal of the season, stabbing a shot through the legs of Frankfurt defender Danny da Costa to give his side a 2-1 lead early in the second half. It wasn’t enough to secure victory, though, as Hoffenheim lost 3-2 with the decisive goal coming in the sixth minute of injury time. Hoffenheim played with 10 men for the majority of the second half after Ghanaian defender Kasim Adams picked up a second yellow in the 65th minute.
BERTRAND TRAORE (Lyon)
The 23-year-old Burkina Faso striker scored his 10th goal of the season in all competitions as third-placed Lyon thrashed Toulouse 5-1 in Ligue 1. Traore also had what would have been a late sixth for his team ruled out by VAR for offside.
YOUCEF ATAL (Nice)
Algerian international full-back Atal has hit a fine run of form for Patrick Vieira’s Nice, who have conceded only one goal a game on average this season. The 22-year-old showed he can be a threat at the other end too, scoring his second goal in three games as Nice beat Strasbourg 1-0.