African players in Europe: ‘Diving’ Salah under fire
Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah was compared to British Olympic diver Tom Daley at the weekend after winning the penalty that sealed a 2-0 victory for title-chasing Liverpool at lowly Cardiff.
The exaggerated fall by the reigning African Footballer of the Year angered Cardiff manager Neil Warnock as the Reds took a two-point lead over Manchester City.
Salah and attack partner Sadio Mane from Senegal failed to score, but Ivorian Wilfried Zaha and Gabonese Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netted as Crystal Palace upset Arsenal 3-2.
MOHAMED SALAH (Liverpool)
The striker found himself being compared to British diver Tom Daley by the frustrated Cardiff manager after earning the penalty converted by James Milner that secured the Premier League title-chasing Reds a 2-0 win in the Welsh capital. The forward was clearly grappled inside the area by Cardiff captain Sean Morrison but the exaggerated fall left Warnock bemoaning how he had made the most of the opportunity the Bluebirds had given him. “I think the end of it was a 9.9 Tom Daley job. I don’t think he could have got much higher off the diving board at the end of it,” said the veteran manager.
WILFRIED ZAHA (Crystal Palace)
Going from Crystal Palace straight to the Champions League may seem like a big leap but it is one the forward has said he wants to make at the end of the season. The Eagles star gave a glimpse of his class in a shock 3-2 win over Arsenal, providing a fine cross which Christian Benteke ballooned over the crossbar. He then scored their second goal after making the most of a mistake by Shkodran Mustafi.
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Arsenal)
The former African Footballer of the Year gave his side hope of rescuing a point against Palace when he scored their second goal — his 24th of the season — in the 77th minute but that incisive burst was as good as it got for the Gunners.
SOFIANE BOUFAL (Celta Vigo)
Moroccan striker Boufal scored a stunning winner as Celta beat Girona 2-1 in La Liga. Boufal dribbled in from the left and curled the ball into the corner for his third goal of the season to give Celta what could prove a crucial victory against one of their rivals in the battle against relegation.
KARL TOKO EKAMBI (Villarreal)/NABIL EL ZHAR (Leganes)
Cameroon forward Ekambi scored his 17th goal of the season to help Villarreal beat Leganes 2-1. Toko Ekambi guided a shot into the far corner to give Villarreal a two-goal lead before Moroccan El Zhar converted a late penalty to give Leganes brief hope of a comeback. Victory sends Villarreal up to 14th, four points clear of the relegation places.
HAMED JUNIOR TRAORE (Empoli)
Ivorian Traore scored his first senior goal in Italy for relegation-threatened Empoli in a 4-2 defeat by SPAL. On loan from Fiorentina to Empoli, where he has played since 2017, the 19-year-old collected a Levan Mchedlidze pass to fire in from just outside the box on 47 minutes.
ISHAK BELFODIL (Hoffenheim)
Hoffenheim’s towering Algerian midfielder continued his superb form in 2019, scoring twice in a 5-2 win over Schalke. Belfodil scored either side of half-time to make it seven goals in his last four games and take his tally to 11 this year.
SALOMON KALOU (Hertha Berlin)
The Ivorian veteran missed several chances as Hertha laboured to a 0-0 draw with bottom-of-the-table Hanover. The result ended a five-game losing streak for Hertha, but keeps them in the doldrums after it was announced that coach Pal Dardai would step down at the end of the season.
KALIFA COULIBALY (Nantes)
Malian Coulibaly took his tally to four goals in the last five games as Nantes beat struggling Amiens 3-2 to pull well clear of the relegation battle. The 1.97m striker has had the tough task of filling the void left by the late Emiliano Sala but his recent form suggests he is growing in confidence. With the scores level, Coulibaly turned the game his team’s way with two goals in six minutes early in the second half. He scored the first with a low strike after he was put through by Ghanaian team-mate Majeed Waris. The second was a header from a corner.
BRICE SAMBA (Caen)
Congo Brazzaville-born goalkeeper Samba, who started the season by making costly mistakes in a loss at Paris Saint-Germain, was the hero as Caen climbed off the bottom of the table, and gave themselves hope of escaping the automatic relegation places, with a 1-0 win at Patrick Vieira’s Nice. The scores were level when Alexander Djiku handled a free-kick from Malang Sarr. But Samba stretched to save the spot-kick by Remi Walter. Djiku made amends by scoring Caen’s second-half winner.
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