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African players in Europe: Liverpool’s Keita steps out of shadows


Paris (AFP) – Naby Keita enjoyed a rare day in the spotlight for second-placed Liverpool by scoring the goal that earned a 1-0 Premier League win at Newcastle United and kept the pressure on leaders Manchester City.

Guinea midfielder Keita usually operates in the shadows for the Reds while Senegal talisman Sadio Mane and Egypt captain Mohamed Salah take turns at fulfilling the star role.

A few hours after Liverpool triumphed to go top, City thumped lowly Leeds United 4-0 to regain a one-point advantage with four rounds to play in a thrilling English title chase.

Here, AFP Sport highlights some of the top African performances in European leagues at the weekend:

ENGLAND

NABY KEITA (Liverpool)

The match was only 19 minutes old when three players brought into the side by Reds manager Jurgen Klopp combined to break the deadlock. James Milner snapped into a tackle on Fabian Schar and, while Newcastle were furious no free-kick was given, the visitors played on with Diogo Jota finding Keita, who kept his cool to round Martin Dubravka and fire into the unguarded net for quadruple-seeking Liverpool.

WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace)

The Ivory Coast striker came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner as Palace won 2-1 at Southampton. Not fit to start because of ankle problems, Zaha secured all three points for the London club when he cleverly rolled away from Southampton centre-back Jan Bednarek and let fly with a low shot from the edge of the box that went in via the post for his 12th league goal this season.

SPAIN

SAMUEL CHUKWUEZE (Villarreal)

The 22-year-old grabbed his first La Liga goal since last December, but that could not prevent his side from suffering a 2-1 loss at Alaves. But the Nigerian and his teammates’ focus will be on their Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday, when the ‘Yellow Submarine’ will be looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit.

ITALY

VICTOR OSIMHEN and KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)

Napoli’s two African stars were key to Luciano Spalletti’s side thrashing Sassuolo 6-1 and securing Champions League football next season. Senegal captain Koulibaly led a blitz which put Napoli four goals ahead in the first 21 minutes by heading home the opener from a Lorenzo Insigne corner before Nigeria forward Osimhen netted in almost identical fashion to take his Serie A tally to 13 in 24 appearances.

FRANCE

KARL TOKO EKAMBI (Lyon)

The Cameroon international continued his fine run of form with a late goal in Lyon’s 3-0 win at second-placed Marseille. Toko Ekambi has now scored five goals in as many games.

ANDY DELORT (Nice)

The Algerian’s 13th Ligue 1 goal of the season gave Nice a crucial 1-0 win at struggling Bordeaux which kept their Champions League hopes alive. Nice trail third-placed Rennes by two points with three matches left in the season.

GERMANY

ERIC MAXIM CHOUPO-MOTING (Bayern Munich)

The Cameroon striker started alongside Robert Lewandowski in a 3-1 defeat at Mainz as newly-crowned Bundesliga champions Bayern suffered a hangover from their title celebrations. A week after being confirmed champions for the 10th consecutive season, Bayern were 2-0 down before Choupo-Moting’s pass found Lewandowski, who slipped his marker and fired in.

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