Boufal delivers on promise in Saints win
Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal grabbed his first Premier League goal as Southampton rebounded from their Europa League disappointment with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at the weekend. Riyad Mahrez and Alex Iwobi were among other African stars on the winning side in England, while Sadio Mane shone for Liverpool but couldn’t help the Reds collect all three points in a 2-2 draw against West Ham. Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang endured a quiet afternoon as Borussia Dortmund drew 1-1 with Cologne to lose further ground in Germany.
ENGLAND RIYAD MAHREZ (Leicester)
Prior to the 4-2 humbling of Manchester City on Saturday one could have been forgiven for thinking the Riyad Mahrez who starred in last season’s title-winning exploits had been replaced by a less-talented lookalike on his return for this campaign. The 25-year-old’s level plunged so much that a week ago Claudio Ranieri hinted he might drop him. Whether that sparked a reaction or not, Mahrez was in far better form against City and his delightful pass to set up Jamie Vardy sealed a strong performance by the Algerian.
ALEX IWOBI (Arsenal)
The 20-year-old Nigerian international showed a cool head when he took possession after Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez was fouled on the edge of the Stoke penalty area and scored with a rightfooted shot to establish a crucial matchwinning two-goal cushion a quarter of an hour from time.
VICTOR WANYAMA (Tottenham)
Spurs could well have deservedly gone home with honours even against Manchester United but the Kenyan midfield enforcer got the execution horribly wrong having ghosted in for a free header. For some reason the 25-year-old didn’t head goalwards but across goal when an equaliser looked on the cards.
SOFIANE BOUFAL (Southampton)
Nerves were beginning to fray over whether Moroccan international Sofiane Boufal was worth the record fee of £16 million ($20 million, 18 million euros) paid out by Saints in August. He had found the net just once prior to Sunday-and that was in an EFL Cup game-but it was worth the wait for the 23-year-old’s first Premier League goal as he rifled home from the edge of the area after a sublime five-man move.
SADIO MANE (Liverpool)
The Senegalese has been one of Liverpool’s standout performers this season since his move from Southampton, equally as good at finding the net as creating goals for for his team-mates. The 24-year-old was in creative mode against West Ham United, teeing up Adam Lallana for their opening goal. His dazzling footwork in the box then bamboozled the Hammers defence and led to Divock Origi’s equaliser early in the second half.
GERMANY PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Borussia Dortmund)
The Bundesliga’s top scorer had an afternoon to forget in Borussia Dortmund’s 1-1 draw at Cologne on Saturday as Marco Reus’s 90th-minute equaliser rescued the visitors. Aubameyang had the ball in the Cologne net with just nine minutes gone, but his effort was ruled out for offside and, unusually for the Gabon striker, that proved to be his only shot on goal for the entire match. It was a poor performance from Dortmund, only compensated by Reus’s late equaliser after Artjoms Rudnevs gave Cologne a first-half lead.
ITALY KALIDOU KOULIBALY (Napoli)
Napoli on Sunday confirmed their recent purple patch-which has seen the southerners rout Inter Milan 3-0 and beat Benfica in the Champions League to secure top spot in their group-but Sunday’s 5-0 rout of Cagliari came at the cost of losing Koulibaly to a injury. Koulibaly hobbled off after just 20 minutes at the San Paolo after going in for a tackle that earned him a booking and a sore knee to boot. Coach Maurizio Sarri said afterwards the injury “did not look serious” but pending scans on Monday Sarri will certainly be hoping that is the case. Koulibaly has been a rock at the back for the Italians in what is another promising season, all in spite of injury to Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik.
KEITA BALDE (Lazio)
Keita started on the bench at Sampdoria amid reports he could be the subject of a winter transfer to La Liga side Valencia, who are coached by ex-Fiorentina and Italy boss Cesare Prandelli, and did not make an appearance until the 65th minute when he replaced Lucas Biglia. Lazio had built a comfortable 2-0 lead by the time the Senegal striker arrived, thanks to first-half goals from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Marco Parolo. Sampdoria grabbed a lifeline when late substitute Patrik Schick hit a lastgasp rocket, but Lazio held on for a ninth win that moved them up to fifth, level with Napoli and eight points behind leaders Juventus.
FRANCE BENJAMIN MOUKANDJO (Lorient)
The 28-year-old Cameroon striker hit his seventh Ligue 1 goal of the season but was unable to prevent a 3-2 defeat to Toulouse for whom Swedish international Ola Toivonen scored a hat-trick. Moukandjo, who has 36 caps, has scored more than a third of his team’s 18 league goals but Lorient are still at the foot of the table. — AFP
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