African players in Europe: Mahrez, Ighalo on the mark in the Premier League

Riyad Mahrez

Algerian striker Riyad Mahrez produced a brace of penalties for leaders Leicester City and Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo helped Watford dispatch Liverpool in the Premier League at the weekend.


RIYAD MAHREZ (Leicester City)
Mahrez confirmed his current status as the Premier League’s pre-eminent attacking player with a brace of penalties as Leicester won 3-2 at Everton to guarantee they will top the table on Christmas Day. He opened the scoring in the 27th minute at a rain-soaked Goodison Park, tucking the ball into the bottom-left corner after Ramiro Funes Mori had dragged Shinji Okazaki down, and restored the visitors’ lead in the 65th minute, following Romelu Lukaku’s equaliser, by finding the opposite bottom corner after Tim Howard had upended Jamie Vardy. The Algeria international has now scored 13 goals in the league this season.

The in-form Ighalo took his tally for the campaign to 12 goals with a brace as Watford pulled off a tremendous 3-0 home win over Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. The Nigeria striker scored Watford’s second goal in the 15th minute, running onto strike partner Troy Deeney’s lobbed pass and drilling home, before heading in a right-wing cross from Valon Behrami with five minutes remaining.

JORDAN AYEW (Aston Villa)
Ghana international Ayew scored a sensational 61st-minute equaliser to earn bottom club Villa a 1-1 draw at Newcastle United. With Villa trailing to Fabricio Coloccini’s first-half opener, Ayew gathered a deep cross from Jordan Veretout on the left side of the area, threw Daryl Janymaat with a dummy back-heel and curled a glorious shot in off the right-hand post. It was his fourth goal of the campaign.

ANDRE AYEW (Swansea City)
Ayew was unable to follow his younger brother’s lead as managerless Swansea were held to a 0-0 draw by West Ham United that kept them in the relegation zone. The 26-year-old went close twice in the first half at the Liberty Stadium, heading over and placing a shot narrowly wide with his weaker right foot, but his influence faded as the match went on.


The Cameroon striker claimed only his third league goal of the season in unorthodox fashion on Friday to help Schalke seal a 1-0 win over Hoffenheim to go fifth in the league table. The 26-year-old scored the winner in the 28th minute when his shot deflected off the boot of Hoffenheim’s Czech defender Pavel Kaderabek and flew into the back of the visitors’ net.

SALOMON KALOU (Hertha Berlin)
The Ivory Coast striker claimed his ninth goal of the season as Hertha Berlin beat Mainz 2-0 in the capital on Sunday to finish 2015 third in the Bundesliga table. Kalou grabbed Hertha’s second when a superb diagonal pass from Vedad Ibisevic put him into space and the Ivory Coast striker held off his marker to fire home on 54 minutes.


Ivory Coast international striker Sio set up the opening goal for Ousmane Dembele on 63 minutes with a sublime pass as Rennes won 2-0 at Guingamp on Saturday. Dembele then returned the favour with 13 minutes left to put Sio through one-on-one with goalkeeper Jonas Lossl. It was Sio’s fifth goal this season, four of which have come away from home.

Winger Ayite set the Corsicans on the road to a 2-0 victory over Reims that lifted them three points clear of the relegation zone at the halfway mark of the Ligue 1 season. The Togo international took a pass from Seko Fofana on 21 minutes before slotting his third goal of the season into the bottom corner.

MOHAMED LABRI (Gazelec Ajaccio)
As the tiny Corsican side Gazelec Ajaccio feel their way into their first top flight season, Tunisian midfielder Labri scored a decisive brace in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over faltering Lyon. His first on 32 minutes came from sheer opportunism while his second on 67 minutes finished off a rapier counter-attack as David Ducourtioux played him in on Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes. The goals took Labri’s total to six goals this season.


Moroccan forward Amrabat set up the winning goal for Charles while Cameroonian goalkeeper Kameni kept his fifth clean sheet of the season as Malaga eased their relegation fears with a 1-0 win over La Liga pace-setters Atletico Madrid on Sunday.


It may be crisis time at Roma, but the joys of the beautiful game were written large on the face of 18-year-old Nigerian Sadiq when he headed Roma’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Genoa at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday. Umar replaced Egyptian international Mohamed Salah with only eight minutes remaining and the score at 1-0 as Roma sought to end a four-game winless streak. But the towering teenager kept his composure in the final minute to meet a cross from deep on the left and power a header past Mattia Perin for his maiden Serie A goal.