Outstanding Five: Mikel, Ighalo, Onazi star over the weekend
Mikel Obi was at his majestic best, coordinating play, spraying passes and winning balls. The midfielder played at his pace, intelligently lassoing the game with every movement, pass or tackle. For all of Frank Acheampong’s heroics, netting a hat-trick, Mikel was the enabler from deep. The Super Eagles captain was supreme leading the game in tackles and interceptions, four apiece.
Mikel assisted two of Acheampongs goals, the first was a delightful lofted pass behind the defence from his own half. It was typical Mikel, receiving the ball properly shielded and glancing ahead for movement, the execution matched the idea, the precision of the pass giving a hat-tip to his vision, Acheampong latched onto it and duly dispatched to give the pass the corollary it deserved.
The second assist was equally glorious as the pass charted its way between defenders. Mikel floated a low-arc pass into the box from the midfield third for Acheampong to hit a shot on the bounce.
Onazi over the weekend, stood out as the brilliant energetic midfielder he is feted to be, chasing the ball, winning tackles and starting attack from deep. The 25-year old could lay claim to providing a ‘second assist’ with his pass starting the counter attack that led to Yusuf Yazici’s first goal. Onazi lobbed the ball into space for Burak Yilmaz from his own half; the forward got to it then squared the ball for Yusuf to place a shot past the goalkeeper. Onazi was lively on the defensive note, mopping balls while shielding the back four making sure balls rarely got by him. The midfielder attempted the highest number of tackles (7) in the game and had the highest number of interceptions (4). Onazi also had the highest number of passes (80) in the game.
His excellent performance was capped with a goal in the 86th minute. Onazi dropped a shoulder, cut in from the left then squeezed the ball under the goal keeper for the last goal of the game.
From the get-go, Ighalo looked pumped. His name still wasn’t registered as a scorer since the Chinese Super League began. In the seventh minute, the striker twisted and turned in the box, turned the defender inside out, before he passed into the centre of the box. Unfortunately, the pass was cleared by a recovering defender.
He got on the score sheet, three minutes before the end of the first half. Ighalo reacted quickest to bundle a spilled save over the line. The goal was shrouded in controversy as the referee required an on-field-review of the goal as well as consultations with the VAR. Few minutes after, the referee adjudged the goal as correct and the goal stood, Ighalo had scored his first goal of the season.
VAR came back to bite against Ighalo’s team as a goal was cancelled after solid work by Ighalo. The goal would have been the winner for Changchun Yatai but the referee adjudged the scorer to have been offside after consultations. Ighalo brought the ball down on his chest in the area despite being crowded by a number of defenders, the forward then laid a pass to Long Tan. Tan floated a cross but the ensuing header didn’t count.
In the Scottish Premier League fixture between St. Johnstone and Hibernian, defender Efe Ambrose opened the scoring in the second minute with an assured header off a cross. The defender played on the right of a back three for Hibernian. His team’s resolve wasn’t strong enough as St Johnstone scored in the 83rd minute to end the game in a draw. The goal was his second in the Scottish League after he scored his first against his former side, Celtic.
Ogu’s 31st minute header was enough to keep Hapoel Be’er Sheva atop the Ligat Ha’al (Israeli league) table. The midfielder leapt highest to power home the header from his team-mate’s cross. Ogu was on for the full length of the game.
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