AFRICANS ABROAD: Kudus magic as Wissa keeps on scoring

rugby20 May 2024 14:45| © Mzansi Football

Africa’s stars scored goals, created assists and kept clean sheets in Europe’s top leagues this weekend, as the Premier League drew to a close and Spain and Italy went into their penultimate round of fixtures.

As ever, there were plenty of influential performances from African players as they continued to play a crucial role in European club football.

Here is a round-up of some of the top performers.


Kudus saved his best for last with a stunning over-head kick goal that briefly gave West Ham – and Arsenal – hope that they may be able to get something from their trip to the Etihad. Trailing 2-0, he flicked the ball up at the back post and produced perfect technique to rifle the ball into the back of the net with a bicycle kick. It was his eighth goal of the campaign to go with six assists in a very good first season in England for the 23-year-old. The big question is whether one of the top six will come in for him. West Ham finished ninth but will have a new manager next season with the departure of David Moyes.


Senegal midfielder Gueye continued his fine late-season scoring form with a goal in the other game that had a bearing on the title race at Arsenal. Everton were long safe, but gave the Gunners a run for their money in the 2-1 defeat, a somewhat controversial win for Arsenal after Gabriel Jesus appeared to handle the ball in the build-up. The VAR thought so, but referee Michael Oliver did not after going to look on the screen. Gueye’s goal was somewhat fortuitous, his free-kick hit the wall and wrong-footed home goalkeeper David Raya, who had no chance. It follows recent crucial goals against Nottingham Forest and Brentford that secured Everton’s survival and is a fourth of the season for the Senegal star, his best ever Premier League return. Everton finished in 15th, though without their eight-point deduction for the alleged breach of Profit and Sustainability Rules, they would have ended 12th.


Wissa has been one of the form forwards in the Premier League in the final stages of the campaign and added another goal and assists against Newcastle United on the final day, though his side lost 4-2 and ended in 16th position. His first goal contribution was a lovely slide pass across the box into the path of Vitaly Janelt, who scored his first of the campaign. That was when his side was 3-0 down, and Wissa made it 3-2 with a stunning goal. He collected a long ball, twisted and turned the defence before unleashing a shot from 25 yards that curled into the bottom corner. It showed off all his best attributes. He finished the Premier League season with 12 goals and three assists, easily his best campaign in England and the most goals he has in a season since getting 15 in Ligue 2 for Lorient in 2019-20.


It has been a tough old season for Manchester United as they ended the campaign in eighth place, well below expectations. They do have the FA Cup final against Manchester City to come so all is not lost in the silverware hunt. They did at least finish their Premier League campaign on a high with a 2-0 win at Brighton & Hove Albion, meaning they won 18 of their 38 games, but suffered a club-record 14 defeats. Onana played his part with a clean sheet on the final day, his ninth of the campaign having featured in every minute of United’s 38 matches.


Nzola scored his third Serie A goal of the season in a 2-2 draw with Napoli, perhaps a modest return for a player who netted 13 for Spezia in 2022/23. It was a lovely finish too, picking up the ball on the left-hand side of the box, he cut inside beyond two defenders and drilled a low shot into the far corner of the net. It keeps Fiorentina in the hunt for European places next season, though they are also in the final of the Europa Conference League where they take on Olympiacos of Greece. Nzola has three goals and three assists in 15 starts (+ 17 subs) in Serie A this season.


Frosinone took a giant step towards safety with a 1-0 win over Monza on Sunday as they moved two points clear of the drop zone with one round to play, and victory was handed to them by the Moroccan forward Cheddira with a seventh goal of what is a maiden Serie A campaign for the 26-year-old. He headed home at the back post inside nine minutes to give his side an advantage they held until the end. Cheddira scored 17 goals for Bari in Serie B last season, but it was always going to be tough to replicate that at the elite level.


The assist for Cheddira’s goal was laid on by another Moroccan in Harroui, making it an all-north African affair for Frosinone. It was a good piece of skill too as he picked up the ball wide on the left. His first effort was blocked, but he stuck at it and delivered a pinpoint cross for Cheddira, who simply had to help it over the line at the back post. It was a third assist of the season to go with three goals for Harroui, who is enjoying his best season in Serie A since a 2021 move from Sparta Rotterdam.


Niang thought he had given Empoli a precious 1-0 win at fellow strugglers Udinese with a 90th-minute penalty in their clash on Sunday, but the home side got a spot-kick of their own in the 104th minute of a crazy relegation battle in Udine. The result leaves Empoli third bottom and in the relegation zone going into the final weekend, a point behind Udinese. Had they managed to hold on for the win it is they who would hold the aces in their final match, which is home to Roma. Udinese are at Frosinone, who could yet be sucked in. Niang’s goal was his fifth to go with one assist since he joined the club in January. That return is from five starts and eight sub appearances.


AC Milan were surprise 3-1 losers at Torino, but Algerian star Bennacer at least got on the scoresheet for the second game in a row. This time it was from the penalty spot with his side trailing 3-0, but having waited until May for his first of the season, he has two in two, which equals the best Serie A tally for a player who does not find the back of the net often. To be fair, he has also battled with injury this season and has 12 starts and seven sub appearances.


Bamba netted just his third LaLiga goal of the campaign as he helped Celta Vigo to a 2-1 win at already-relegated Granada. Bamba turned the ball in from close range after a low cross, a neat finish in which he did well to hold off the attentions of the defender and grab his goal. The Ivorian also has two assists to his name but will want much more in 2024-25, though to be fair to him it is his first season in Spain following a move from Lille in Ligue 1.


Alaves moved up to 10th in LaLiga with a 1-0 win over Getafe, and goalkeeper Jesus Owono played his p[art in what was a rare start for him in Spain. It was his third of the season and fifth since he arrived at Alaves three seasons ago as he has had to bide his time. His other two starts this season have all come in the last 10 days and include a 5-0 loss to champions Real Madrid. The game against Getafe was his first LaLiga clean sheet.