North Africa vs West Africa: Who's made bigger Premier League contribution?

North Africa vs West Africa: Who’s made bigger Prem contribution? | Goal.com

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Having matched Didier Drogba’s African record for goals in the Premier League last weekend, Mohamed Salah now looks set to eclipse it when Liverpool travel to Manchester United on Sunday.

If it now seems inevitable, it is for two reasons.

The first is the simple fact of the Egyptian’s form, and the stratospheric level he is now regularly operating at.

Watching Salah now seems like scampering down the stairs on Christmas morning to check under the tree: there are guaranteed to be treats waiting, some measure of wizardry with which to delight and thrill. It is a wondrous state for a player to be in, and even more so when he knows it himself like the 29-year-old clearly does.

The second is that, in scoring on the Reds’ visit to Old Trafford last season, Salah emphatically ended a personal league hoodoo in away matches against the Red Devils. In hindsight, it looks rather silly, but at the time his poor record in the fixture was a major talking point.

That lingering doubt now dispelled, the stage seems set.

Whenever he does hit 105 however, it will be significant in an even broader context than attaining the record.

As far as African imports go, the Premier League has, since inception, tended to provide the perfect stomping ground for West African players.

This is borne out by the rest of the African goalscorer top five – all are native to countries from that one region – but even beyond the forwards, it is footballers from West Africa that have fitted in most readily.

Think the likes of Michael Essien, Yaya Toure, Joseph Yobo, Kolo Toure, Abdoulaye Meite and Mikel John Obi, to name very few.

The reason for this is two-fold – both cultural and economic.

The Premier League has always prided itself on a hard, fast playing style based around physicality. As an idea, this is very much in keeping with the basis of football in West Africa; broadly speaking, North African football has been defined more by its technical aspects (in part due to proximity to Europe), while in East and Southern Africa football is not quite as popular, and lower population densities do not foster the sort of fierce competitive outlook that is found in West Africans.

Similarly, socio-economic factors come into play, especially in contrast to North African nations.

With corruption and a lack of infrastructure undermining local leagues in West Africa, those nations are compelled to export their talent for development.

As a result, there is a clear disparity both in quality and financial muscle between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa in the club game and, as an extension of this dynamic, less of an imperative on North African players to seek transfers to Europe.

This has fed into an insularity that has to this point limited the footprint of that region in the Premier League. Colonial and migratory patterns have seen players of Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian descent proliferate in France, but the Premier League has mostly remained under-explored territory.

There have been exceptions of course.

Noureddine Naybet had a brief but well-reviewed stint with Tottenham, Mustapha Hadji became a Coventry icon on the back of five years, Mido’s headstrong ways gave many English managers conniptions for close to a decade and Radhi Jaidi was a crucial part of Sam Allardyce’s muscular Bolton Wanderers outfit in the mid-noughties.

However, these names pale in comparison, both in terms of longevity and success, to some of the stalwarts from West Africa who have graced the Premier League – the list of Nigerians alone almost comfortably outstrips that of all the North African nations put together, and that’s not just in terms of quantity.

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The trend is starting to turn, however.

This is especially so in the past half-decade: Riyad Mahrez has won multiple Premier League titles with Leicester City and Manchester City, Ahmed Elmohamady has been a part of the furniture at Aston Villa since 2017 (and at Sunderland and Hull City for even longer) and Mohamed Elneny has been at Arsenal since 2015, claiming multiple FA Cups.

Salah eclipsing Drogba’s record would not only confirm this sea change but would also signpost the Premier League as a prime destination for the next wave of North African footballing talent.

‘Super Falcons comes first’ – Red-hot Oshoala unruffled over international goal drought

‘Super Falcons comes first’ – Red-hot Oshoala unruffled over international goal drought | Goal.com

Victor Adigun

Asisat Oshoala claims personal achievements are immaterial as long as the Nigerian women’s national team keep winning.

The Barcelona goal machine has been in grand form in the 2021-22 campaign – scoring nine times in her last eight fixtures for the Spaniards in all competition.

Despite her industry on the international scene, she has been unable to re-enact her Barcelona scoring form for the nine-time African champions, with her last Nigeria goals coming against Equatorial Guinea in February.

Against the Nzalang Femenino, Oshoala found the net on four occasions in the Super Falcons’ 9-0 in a Turkish Women’s Cup outing.

The 27-year-old’s inability to score against Ghana in Wednesday’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations qualification in Lagos extended her international drought to six games.

Regardless, the former Liverpool and Arsenal star states the goals would come, insisting that victory for Randy Waldrum’s squad supersedes her individual aspirations.

“To be honest, I understand the emotion and everything that come from the fans,” Oshoala told Goal.

“It’s a beautiful thing that women’s football today is getting more attention to the point that the fans are expecting certain things from certain players.

“I am really happy about that but also, I need everyone to understand that sometimes in football, the team comes first, and individual feat can come in later.

“What delights me is the fact that we defeated Ghana and the fact that we will play the return leg with more confidence. Who says I can’t score in Ghana?

“To my fans who expected me to score in the first leg, I am sorry I didn’t give you guys goals, but I still have many games to play for the Super Falcons.”

Uchenna Kanu’s brace powered Nigeria to a 2-0 win over the Black Queens at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos.

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Expectedly, Oshoala will shoulder the Falcons’ goalscoring responsibilities when they take on Mercy Tagoe-Quarcoo’s women in the reverse fixture on Sunday.

The winners on aggregate will square up against Niger Republic or Cote d’Ivoire in the second round.

Morocco 2022 will be used to determine Africa’s qualifiers for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup billed for Australia and New Zealand.

‘I will certainly be praying’ – Rangers’ Gerrard delivers Balogun injury update

‘I will certainly be praying’ – Rangers’ Gerrard delivers Balogun injury update | Goal.com

Rangers.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has revealed his concerns after defender Leon Balogun picked up an injury during their Europa League fixture against Brondby at Ibrox Stadium on Thursday.

The 33-year-old Nigeria international scored his first Europa League goal in the 2-0 win but he could not finish the game after he was substituted for countryman Calvin Bassey in the second period.

It was Balogun who put the Gers ahead in the 18th minute after he rose the highest to find the back of the net from James Tavernier’s cross before Kemar Roofe made it 2-0 with his 30th-minute goal that sealed maximum points for the hosts in the Group A fixture.

Speaking after the game, Gerrard said he will be “praying” for the defender, who recently featured for the Super Eagles in a 2022 World Cup qualifier against the Central African Republic.

Gerrard said as quoted by Glasgow Times: “There is an update, but without him [Balogun] having an MRI scan or being assessed once everything is calm [we won’t know the extent of the injury]. He has felt something in there.

“We are hoping we have got to it before there is a tweak or any muscle damage.

“We are hoping it is a little bit of tightness and we will know in the next 24 hours. I will certainly be praying tonight.

“He felt something in his hamstring. That’s what he came off with, but he wasn’t sure if he felt something or whether it was a bit of tightness.

“We will work that out in the next 24 hours and hopefully he will pull through because he is important for us. I thought his performance was top tonight as well.”

Balogun started the game alongside his compatriot Joe Aribo and in a previous interview, Gerrard praised Aribo for his superb display against Brondby.

“I never said stand up and be counted, I think he always gives you that. He is a great kid, he wants to learn, he wants to grow,” Gerrard said.

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“What I have said to Joe [Aribo] is you are a much better player when you play angry in a nice way, flex your muscles.

“I thought his first 45-minute performance [on Thursday night] was outstanding, that is probably the reason why he tired a little bit, but he has played a lot.”

Rangers will shift their focus to the league where they will face St. Mirren at Paisley 2021 Stadium on Sunday.

‘Napoli very fortunate to have Osimhen’ – Spalletti praises star after Legia Warsaw win

‘Napoli very fortunate to have Osimhen’ – Spalletti praises star after Legia Warsaw win | Goal.com

Napoli.

Napoli head coach Luciano Spalletti has described striker Victor Osimhen as “a great professional who is eager to learn” after the 3-0 Europa League win against Legia Warsaw on Thursday.

The Partenopei secured their first win in Group C after goals from Lorenzo Insigne, who broke the deadlock in the 76th minute, Nigeria’s Osimhen in the 80th minute, and Matteo Politano in stoppage time gave them the three points at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

The 22-year-old Nigeria international was introduced for Hirving Lozano, just before the hour-mark and he went on to score a goal in his third straight match in the competition so far in this campaign.

Spalletti has explained how he has worked to improve the talent of Osimhen, who has also scored five goals in Serie A for Napoli from seven appearances, and why they are very fortunate to have him in their ranks.

“He [Osimhen] is accustomed to galloping in wide-open spaces, so coming back to get the ball or support his teammate and then make the run are things he is still learning,” Spalletti said as quoted by Football Italia.

“He’s a great professional, a lovely guy who is eager to learn and improve.

“His teammates adore him, he wants to be with them all the time and we’re very fortunate to have him.

“When you have so many attacking players, we can seek variations and try new ways to break down the opposition. With Osimhen, Mertens, and Insigne on the field, it becomes easier to find that moment of magic.

“We maintained the balance anyway, Elmas worked so hard, and when you have this attitude in your players, it becomes simple for a coach.

“I am very happy, I think it’s difficult to play better than we did tonight. At least the players gave a response to anyone suggesting Napoli don’t care about the Europa League.”

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His sentiments were echoed by Napoli striker Dries Mertens, who praised Osimhen because he “wants to listen and learn.”

“Osimhen arrived last season and had a few difficulties settling, he also had injury problems, so I tried to help him. He’s a smart lad who wants to listen and learn. I give him all the love in the world!” Mertens said as quoted by Football Italia.

Napoli will shift their focus to Serie A where they set to face Roma at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

Gerrard to Aribo: 'You are better player when you play angry for Rangers'

Gerrard to Aribo: ‘You are better player when you play angry for Rangers’ | Goal.com

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Rangers coach Steven Gerrard has lauded Nigeria international Joe Aribo for his display in the 2-0 win over Brondby in the Europa League at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow on Thursday night.

The hosts needed just 18 minutes to open the scoring through another Nigeria international Leon Balogun, who converted a precise James Tavernier corner-kick.

With 30 minutes on the clock, Kemar Roofe scored the second to ensure the Scottish champions won comfortably.

But it was Aribo’s performance that caught the eye of the Liverpool legend owing to his impact in the match.

“I never said stand up and be counted, I think he always gives you that. He is a great kid, he wants to learn, he wants to grow,” Gerrard told BT Sport as quoted by All Nigeria Soccer.

“What I have said to Joe [Aribo] is you are a much better player when you play angry in a nice way, flex your muscles. 

“I thought his first 45-minute performance [on Thursday night] was outstanding, that is probably the reason why he tired a little bit, but he has played a lot.”

In the previous week, the midfielder was part of the Super Eagles squad that played the Central African Republic in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

After a shock 1-0 loss at home, Nigeria went on to win the second meeting 2-0 to maintain Group C’s top spot.

Meanwhile, the Rangers manager believes it will be tough to continue having the player with that quality.

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“He has been away on international duty but if he can find that performance consistently over 90 minutes, we will be lucky to keep hold of him,” Gerrard concluded.

After their recent win, Rangers are now placed third in Group A with three points, six fewer than French heavyweights Lyon who have won all three their matches. 

Sparta Prague are second with four points after a win, draw and loss while Brondby are bottom of the table with just one point after a draw and two losses.

Sarr: Ranieri suggests ‘best position’ for Watford star ahead of Everton visit

Sarr: Ranieri suggests ‘best position’ for Watford star ahead of Everton visit | Goal.com

Watford.

Watford manager Claudio Ranieri has suggested the position that suits winger Ismaila Sarr best ahead of their Premier League trip to face Everton on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Senegal star has so far managed four goals in the top-flight from eight appearances as a striker but according to the Italian manager, his best position may instead be on the right flank, where he has featured for most of his Watford career so far.

Speaking ahead of the team’s trip to face the Toffees at Goodison Park, Ranieri told the club’s official website: “I think his [Sarr’s] best position is as right-winger.

“I tried to put him very close to the centre backs of Liverpool and attack on their shoulders. It wasn’t possible for us and in the second half, I put him in his position.

“He is much better there because he knows what he can do and I want to give him all the confidence.”

On the return of Joshua King from injury, Ranieri said: “It’s good news, he [King] has trained with us all week, he’s available.

“Joao Pedro is a very interesting young player, of course, he will have some good chances to show his qualities.”

During his first match in charge of the Hornets, the team suffered a 5-0 defeat at Vicarage Road against Liverpool and Ranieri has called for immediate response against Everton.

“Every time I talk to my players it’s important the feeling between me and them,” Ranieri continued.

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“I will give them all of my experience and all of my support. It’s not important if they make mistakes because everyone makes mistakes, but it’s important how you react. I want to see how they react against Everton.

“The mood is very good, they’ve worked very well during the week and of course they aren’t happy, they know we played very badly. I am the first to recognise that, but we have to react and show our best.

“It was much better [this week] because against Liverpool I met all my players two days before. This week I worked well with all my players and day-by-day they understand my idea about football better.”

Osimhen equals Mertens' Napoli record with goal in Legia Warsaw thrashing

Osimhen equals Mertens’ Napoli record with goal in Legia Warsaw thrashing | Goal.com

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Victor Osimhen has become the second Napoli player to score in three straight games in a European competition in the 21st century after Dries Mertens.

Osimhen scored Napoli’s second goal in their 3-0 thrashing of Legia Warsaw in a Uefa Europa League game on Thursday.

The 22-year-old started the encounter on the bench and he was introduced for Hirving Lozano, just before the hour-mark.

Both teams were tied for the majority of the game but Lorenzo Insigne broke the deadlock for Napoli in the 76th minute and his Nigerian teammate  doubled the lead, four minutes later.

Another substitute Kostas Manolas also registered his name on the scoresheet, five minutes into the stoppage-time.

Osimhen has now scored four goals in three Europa League matches this campaign and he also has a tally of five goals after seven league appearances for the Serie A leaders.

The former Lille talisman is the second-highest scoring player in the Europa League this season alongside Leicester City’s Patson Daka who scored four goals in a game after Cameroon’s Karl Toko Ekambi who has five goals for Lyon so far.

Senegal defender and captain Kalidou Koulibaly produced a solid defensive performance that helped the Parthenopeans keep a clean sheet and grab their first group win.

The Serie A leaders surged to the summit of Group C with four points after three matches but Legia Warsaw remain unmoved at the top of the table, despite the loss.

At the end of the match, Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti urged his players to maintain the performance they showed at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

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“Forward we have talented players and we know that the goal can always come,” Spalletti told the club’s website. “But we must always keep balance during the game so that we can then have the possibility of looking for success until the end.

“The intelligence of my men is fundamental. When a player plays for others, he knows that he himself can benefit. This group had a desire for redemption after last year and is proving its worth.

“We are all playing for the same goal and we want to lead the way in Europe. We need to win the next few races to be able to aim for first place in the group.”

Nigeria defender Balogun scores maiden Europa League goal in Rangers win

Nigeria defender Balogun scores maiden Europa League goal in Rangers win | Goal.com

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Leon Balogun scored his first Uefa Europa League goal in Rangers’ 2-0 triumph over Brondby on Thursday night.

Balogun’s breakthrough in the European competition came just a few days after he broke his international duck for Nigeria in a 2022 World Cup qualifiers against the Central African Republic.

The Super Eagles centre-back started the game alongside his compatriot Joe Aribo and they ensured Steven Gerrard’s side get their Europa League campaign up and running with a crucial home victory.

In the 18th minute, Balogun rose highest to find the back of the net with James Tavernier’s cross, and it was also his first goal for the Gers in a competitive fixture since he joined them on a permanent deal in July 2020.

Shortly after the opening goal, Kemar Roofe made it 2-0 with his 30th-minute goal that sealed maximum points for the hosts at Ibrox Stadium.

The two teams struggled to find the back of the net after the restart but Balogun was replaced by new Super Eagles invitee Calvin Bassey in the 64th minute while Zambia striker Fashion Sakala replaced Alfredo Morelos in the 71st minute.

Balogun made his first appearance in the Europa League back in November 2016 when he was at Mainz 05 and the encounter ended in a 6-1 loss to Anderlecht.

The victory came as a relief for Rangers after they lost their first two matches to Lyon and Sparta Prague.

Steven Gerrard’s men are now third in Group A table with three points after three matches. In the other group fixture, 10-man Lyon edged Sparta Prague in a seven-goal thriller.

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Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi scored a brace as the Ligue 1 club extended their perfect run and dominance in Group A with a 4-3 away win.

Luka Haraslin’s first-half double gave the hosts a bright start but Toko Ekambi found the back of the net in each half to secure maximum points for Peter Bosz’s side.

Lyon ended the encounter with 10 men after Malo Gusto received a second yellow card in the 74th minute but it did not deter them from leading Group A after gathering nine points from three games while Sparta Prague are second with four points.

Samatta hurts parent club Fenerbahce with goal in Royal Antwerp draw

Samatta hurts parent club Fenerbahce with goal in Royal Antwerp draw | Goal.com

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Mbwana Samatta scored the opening goal for Royal Antwerp in their 2-2 draw against his former club Fenerbahce in a Uefa Europa League encounter.

The former Genk striker returned to Belgium on a season-long loan in August after finding it difficult to impress in Vítor Pereira’s team.

Samatta has struggled to get goals in the Belgian First Division A this campaign and he is currently enduring a six-game goal drought, however, his form in the European championship has been inspirational for Royal Antwerp.

He has scored two goals in three Europa League matches so far, the first one came in their 2-1 loss to Olympiakos on September 16.

On Thursday, Samatta got the Belgian visitors off to a flying start at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium with his early goal in the opening two minutes.

The Tanzania star’s opener was also a disappointing record for Fenerbahce, being the earliest goal they ever conceded in the Europa League history (1:48).

It did not take long for Pereira’s team to respond as Ennner Valencia grabbed the equaliser in the 20th minute.

After missing a penalty in the 36th minute, Valencia made up for it by putting Fenerbahce in the lead after converting from the spot on the stroke of half-time.

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After the restart, Pieter Gerkens ensured both teams shared the spoils with his 62nd-minute equalizer for Antwerp.

Samatta played the entire duration for the Belgian club while Nigeria’s Alhassan Yusuf saw 63 minutes of action before his substitution.

Fenerbahce, on the other hand, had Anglo-Nigerian Bright Osayi-Samuel and DR Congo international Marcel Tisserand in action from start to finish.

Red-hot Awoniyi scores in Union Berlin's Europa Conference League defeat against Feyenoord

Red-hot Awoniyi scores in Union Berlin’s Europa Conference League defeat against Feyenoord | Goal.com

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Taiwo Awoniyi scored a goal as Union Berlin suffered a 3-1 defeat to Feyenoord in a Europa Conference League fixture on Thursday.

Awoniyi continued from where he stopped on Saturday when he opened the scoring for the Iron Ones in their 2-0 Bundesliga victory over Wolfsburg.

The 24-year-old has now scored two goals in the group stage of the European tournament, excluding the brace he scored against KuPS in a qualifying game back in August.

Feyenoord made a strong start to the encounter with Alireza Jahanbakhsh giving them the lead in the 11th minute, followed by another goal from Brian Linssen in the 29th minute.

Five minutes after the half-hour mark, Union Berlin responded and halved the deficit after Awoniyi met Christopher Trimmel’s cross with a powerful header in the 35th minute.

The effort was Awoniyi’s 10th goal for Urs Fischer’s side this season as he continues to enjoy fine goalscoring form after his permanent departure from Liverpool in August.

The Super Eagles striker was later replaced in the 66th minute and their Dutch hosts went on to put the game beyond their reach with a third goal through Luis Sinisterra in the 76th minute.

Towards the end of the game, Nigeria striker Cyril Dessers made a cameo appearance for Feyenoord as he came on for Linssen in the 83rd minute.

The result was Union Berlin’s second loss in Group E and they find themselves at the bottom of the table, even though they have registered a win.

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The Bundesliga club is level on three points with Slavia Prague who suffered a 1-0 loss to Maccabi Haifa on Thursday while Feyenoord are at the top with seven points.

Before they host Feyenoord for their next group fixture on November 4, Awoniyi and his Union Berlin teammates will be focused on extending their three-game winning streak in the German top-flight when they travel to Stuttgart on Sunday.

Union Berlin sit in fifth spot on the Bundesliga table with 15 points after eight matches – four points behind leaders Bayern Munich.