LONDON: Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita and Ishak Belfodil of Hoffenheim were the standout Africans in the major European leagues at the weekend.
Guinean Keita equalised at Southampton with his first Premier League goal and a brilliant solo effort from Egyptian Salah put the Reds ahead en route to a 3-1 win and top place.
A couple of wasted first-half chances by Algerian Belfodil at Augsburg were quickly forgotten as he scored a 21-minute hat-trick in a 4-0 Bundesliga triumph.
MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)
He rode to Liverpool’s rescue with a superb strike in a 3-1 win at Southampton that lifted the Reds back to the top of the Premier League. Struggling to find the winning goal against obdurate opponents, Jurgen Klopp’s side were lifted by a moment of magic from Salah in the 80th minute. When Liverpool cleared a Saints corner, Jordan Henderson headed the ball into Salah’s path deep inside the Reds’ half and the reigning African Footballer of the Year accelerated away before planting a fine finish into the far corner from the edge of the area.
NABY KEITA (Liverpool)
The Guinea midfielder scored his first Premier League goal to spark Liverpool’s win against Southampton. Trailing to Shane Long’s early goal, Liverpool were indebted to Keita for breaking his duck in English football at last. Signed from German club Leipzig in July, Keita has endured an erratic season but he saved his maiden goal for a crucial moment, rising to head home in the 36th minute.
WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace)
Arguably Palace’s two standout players this season contributed to the 1-0 win at Newcastle that manager Roy Hodgson believes assures them of Premier League football next season. Ivory Coast winger Zaha produced some more of his box of tricks which provoked DeAndre Yedlin to bring him down in the penalty area with nine minutes remaining and spot-kick specialist Luka Milivojevic tucked away his 10th successful penalty of the season to seal victory.
SAMUEL CHUKWUEZE, KARL TOKO EKAMBI (Villarreal)
Nigerian Chukwueze and Cameroonian Toko Ekambi could not prevent Villarreal from losing 2-1 to Real Betis and dropping back into La Liga’s bottom three. The pair have 23 goals between them this season but drew blanks as Villarreal slipped behind Real Valladolid with seven games to play.
KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)/CHRISTIAN KOUAME (Genoa)
Koulibaly missed the chance for a late winner in a 1-1 draw against 10-man Genoa, whose goalkeeper Ionut Radu got his foot to an effort from the Senegal defender in front of goal. Genoa’s Ivorian striker Kouame was denied by Napoli goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
FRANCK KESSIE (AC Milan)
Ivorian Kessie earned praise from coach Gennaro Gattuso as he returned from suspension in a 2-1 defeat at champions Juventus after a sideline bust-up with teammate Lucas Biglia. “He’s an important player for us,” said Gattuso. “He and Biglia made a mistake but they apologised. I know what he can give me as a player and as a person.”
ISHAK BELFODIL (Hoffenheim)
The midfielder continued his sparkling run of form with a 21-minute hat-trick in Hoffenheim’s 4-0 win at Augsburg. Belfodil wasted two good opportunities in the first half but was on fire after the break, scoring with a diving header and twice after counter-attacks. He has scored nine goals in his last seven games, taking his season tally to 10.
ERIC MAXIM CHOUPO-MOTING (PSG)
Cameroon international Choupo-Moting gave PSG an early lead against Strasbourg at the Parc des Princes as the French giants went in search of the win which would have sealed the Ligue 1 title with eight games to spare. Later in the first half, however, Choupo-Moting somehow managed to turn a net-bound Christopher Nkunku shot onto the post in one of the worst misses imaginable. The match finished 2-2, putting PSG celebrations on hold.
NUNO DA COSTA (Strasbourg)
The once-capped Cape Verde international scored his eighth league goal of the season as Strasbourg made Paris Saint-Germain wait at least another week to seal the Ligue 1 title. The 28-year-old slotted in right-footed just before the half-hour mark to make it 1-1, before PSG needed a late Thilo Kehrer header just to grab a point.
PAPE MOUSSA KONATE (Amiens)
The 26-year-old Senegalese striker grabbed both Amiens goals in a 2-2 draw at home to St Etienne, who lie fourth and are well-set for a place in Europe next season. The widely-travelled Konate, who played in Israel, Russia, Italy and Switzerland before arriving in Ligue 1 in 2017, pulled his team level at 1-1 midway through the first half and put the relegation-fighting club ahead on the hour mark.