Nigerian Watch: Okonkwo, Ajayi, Nwobodo coast their clubs to victory
A legion of Nigerian footballers is plying their trade in many foreign leagues. Each we take a look at those that perform well with their different clubs.
Five players make the cut this, most of them not the usual household names.
Sly as his shirt bears was the man of the match in FC Ufa’s win against Arsenal Tula. The Attacking Midfielder who has played as a forward this season scored the lone goal to put his side 10th on the Russian Premier League table. Igboun has played every minute of Ufa’s league campaign paired alongside Nigerian Kehinde Fatai. The six-capped player has found it difficult returning to the Super Eagles fold since Sunday Oliseh resigned as the Super Eagles coach. Sly has two goals and an assist to boot this season in the Russian Premier League. Igbonu joined Ufa from Danish side Midtjylland in 2015. He started his career at FC Ebedei, the academy affiliate of Midtjylland in Africa.
In the 86th minute of the Serie A game between Sassuolo and Bologna, Bologna manager Roberto Donadoni threw on former U-17 forward Orji Okonkwo in place of defender Sebastien De Maio. The forward scored three minutes later, firing in a rebound after goalkeeper Andrea Consigli spilled Rodrigo Palacio’s shot into his path. Okonkwo’s celebration was telling of how much the goal meant; he raced to the stands taking his shirt off celebrating his first goal for Bologna. The forward who moved to Bologna last month from Football Academy Abuja has played just 16 minutes of Serie A football.
Okonkwo was a part of the victorious U17 team at the 2015 World cup where he scored a 35-yard screamer in the 4-2 semi-final victory over Mexico.
Junior Ajayi’s goal ensured his club Al Ahly qualified to the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League. The U23 forward scored a glorious diving header to give his Egyptian club side a 2-1 away victory over Esperance after the first leg had ended in a 2-2 stalemate. Ali Maaloul lifted an impeccable cross from the right for the diving Ajayi to connect with to score his third goal in the CAF Champions League from nine games. The striker also has eight goals in the Egyptian League from 22 games.
Junior Ajayi played in the Nigeria Professional Football League with the Shooting Stars before moving to CS Sfaxien where he played for a season before earning a move to Al Ahly in 2016.
Silky midfielder Obinna Nwobodo contributed to Ujpest’s 4-2 win over Mezőkövesd-Zsóry in the Hungarian League. The 20-year old gave two assists in the fixture to keep Ujpest seventh-placed, eight points adrift of Videoton atop the league. Nwobodo came on at halftime with his team trailing by a goal. The technically gifted midfielder turned the game on its head after he supplied Soma Novothny, the first goal of his hat-trick with a clipped left-footed cross to the back post. Nwobodo’s cross-cum-shot was met by Novothny who first hit the crossbar with his volley before scoring with the rebound.
Nwobodo, who missed the 2015 U20 World Cup due to a cruciate ligament injury, has featured nine times in the league with two substitute appearances. He earned his move to Ujpest after he was instrumental in Enugu Rangers title-winning season contributing seven goals and 10 assists as well as bagging the Club’s player of the year award.
Former Warri Wolves striker, Gbolahan Salami made it three goals in two games for KuPS in the Veikkausliiga, the Finnish League. His strike against HIFK drew his team level before compatriot Reuben Gabriel scored the winner in KuPS 3-2 victory. Salami came off the bench in the 65th minute replacing Joni Maekelae to score his eighth goal of the season from 21 games and 16 starts. The striker also played for Sunshine Stars and Shooting stars where he was feted as a powerful goal machine. He earned several call-ups to the Super Eagles while he was in the NPFL scoring three goals in 13 caps.
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