Liverpool’s African stars were the standout performers once again during another engrossing weekend of football across Europe’s major leagues, with Sadio Mane following in the footsteps of teammate Mohamed Salah with a momentous landmark.
Elsewhere, Senegalese youngster Ahmadou Bamba Dieng scored his second goal in as many games as he establishes himself as one of the season’s early breakout stars, while 32-year-old Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting continued his purple patch with Bayern Munich.
Salah was rewarded with a commemorative jersey last week as he registered his 100th Premier League goal, and while there was no such public presentation to Mane after his star turn against Crystal Palace, the Senegalese striker is breathing down the neck of his Liverpool teammate having scored his 100th Liverpool goal on his 224th appearance for the club in all competitions.
Only 17 players — including Salah and South Africa great Gordon Hodgson — have scored 100 goals for Liverpool, and Mane reached the mark in fewer games than the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, and Steven Gerrard.
It’s also surely only a matter of time before Mane — like Salah — eclipses Didier Drogba’s African record of 104 Premier League goals, although the race is on to see whether the Egypt striker (101 goals for Liverpool and Chelsea) or the Senegal superstar (98 goals for the Reds and Southampton) will get there first.
If Mane played Crystal Palace every week, he’d surely already be much higher up the goalscoring charts given he equalled Robin van Persie’s Premier League record for scoring in nine consecutive matches against the same opponents.
For van Persie, it was Stoke City, but for Mane no other side appeals to feel the brunt of his qualities more acutely — and more consistently — than the Eagles.
“I am lucky to score so many goals against Palace,” Mane said. “I’d love to play against Crystal Palace every single weekend.”
Here he was once again irrepressible, reacting first to fire past Vicente Guaita in the 43rd minute after the Palace stopper had parried Salah’s header into his path.
Considering how Jurgen Klopp has helped both African forwards to become more effective in front of goal during his time at Anfield, it’s tantalising to imagine what he could have achieved had he worked with the Eagles’ Wilfried Zaha for five years.
Zaha was Palace’s chief threat again, as he was in victory against Tottenham Hotspur the week before, getting the better of James Milner, drawing a booking from Jordan Henderson, and forcing a strong early save from Alisson.
Salah slammed home Liverpool’s second goal before substitute Naby Keita — who hasn’t managed to transform his career at Anfield as Mane has — rounded off one of the performances of the weekend with a sensational volley one minute from time.
With Thiago Alcantara going off injured just after the hour-mark, Keita’s goal could be the precursor to a run in the starting XI.
The Super Eagles attacker was named in Rafael Benitez’s starting line to make his 160th appearance in the Premier League, putting him inside Nigeria’s top 10 appearance-makers in the competition — tied with former Wimbledon forward Efan Ekoku.
Former Chelsea left-back Celestine Babayaro is ninth in Africa’s Premier League appearance charts, on 179 outings, although Iwobi should eclipse him by the season’s end.
Last week, we reported on rising Marseille star Ahmadou Bamba Dieng, who netted both goals in their 2-0 victory over AS Monaco, marking a strong weekend for graduates of Senegal’s fabled Diambars academy as fellow alumni Idrissa Gueye was also among the goals.
Dieng proved this weekend that he’s no one-hit wonder, as he opened the scoring against Stade Rennais to demonstrate once again his aptitude for the top flight.
The 21-year-old is emerging as an early contender for breakout star of the season, and the 2019-20 Senegalese top flight Golden Boot winner has adapted remarkably well to Ligue 1 considering he was playing in his homeland until last October.
Marseille — boosted by the presence Dieng offers in the box — won 2-0, and Dieng is certainly making hay while the sun shines before the return to fitness of Arkadiusz Milik undoubtedly will push him down the pecking order.
Reunion-born Ludovic Ajorque opened the scoring for Racing in the sixth minute before Diallo’s first-half brace took the contest beyond the Moselle heavyweights.
There was also reason for Senegalese joy in Spain this weekend, as Pathe Ciss scored in Rayo Vallecano ‘s 3-0 LaLiga thumping of Getafe.
He also set up a goal for Radamel Falcao, who latched onto the Senegalese midfielder’s pass 10 minutes after coming off the bench to mark his club debut with an angled effort.
It’s a rarity indeed that Bayern veteran Choupo-Moting gets himself on the scoresheet, with the Cameroon skipper only netting three times in the German Bundesliga during the entirety of last season.
But he’s only one off that tally already this term — despite having played just 84 minutes — and he is enjoying something of a purple patch given his recent quadruple against Bremer SV in the German DFB Pokal.
The 32-year-old took his tally to six goals in his past four outings when he came off the bench to add Bayern’s seventh in their 7-0 demolition of Bochum on Saturday.
Choupo-Moting had two efforts saved by goalkeeper Manuel Riemann before finally firing home to round off an ominous Bayern display.
Victory takes Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga, and Choupo-Moting’s form is vindicating the Bavarians’ decision to offer him a new deal, even if he is unlikely to forge his way into the starting XI ahead of Robert Lewandowski — despite his superior goals-to-minutes ratio.
An even rarer scorer than Choupo-Moting, Amadou Haidara was RB Leipzig’s hero as he headed home to salvage a point for Jesse Marsch’s side away at FC Koln 19 minutes from time. The Mali international has now scored five league goals for struggling Leipzig since moving from their sister club FC Salzburg.
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