ROUND-UP: Africans in the EPL – Week 28
EPL sides returned to action midweek with Leicester still living the fairytale and champions Chelsea on a run of back to back victories for the first time this season.
Africa Football Shop’s EPL correspondent reports all the action.
Sunderland welcomed Crystal Palace to the Stadium of Light with both in need of a win. In a tight start, Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie – starting for the first time since December in one of two Palace changes – caused Sunderland’s defence problems. Dame N’Doye’s deflected first-half effort put the hosts in front. Palace then turned the match on its head in the second half with former Sunderland striker Connor Wickham sparking a revival with a five-minute double. Sako and Adebayor came on late with Alan Pardew looking to snatch a comeback win , but in the end had to settle for a hard fought 2-2 draw. Wahbi Khazri also featured for the blackcats.
Everton moved into the top half of the Barclays Premier League with a 3-1 win against bottom side Aston Villa at Villa Park. Rudy Gestede headed in a cross by fellow substitute Jordan Veretout as Villa pulled one back late on, but Remi Garde’s side could not muster a significant comeback and remain cut adrift at the bottom of the table. The match also saw Oumar Niasse make an appearance for winners Everton. Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Ayew featured in the Aston Villa attack but failed to have a significant impact.
AFC Bournemouth kept their Barclays Premier League survival bid well on track with an impressive 2-0 win over south-coast rivals Southampton at Vitality Stadium on Tuesday. Max Gradel made his first start since August following his recovery from knee ligament damage, in place of the injured Junior Stanislas , while on the other hand Sadio Mane saw himself return to the starting eleven after the defeat to Chelsea. Steve Cook and Benik Afobe were the scorers for the home side in the first and second half respectively.
Table toppers Leicester City welcomed West Brom to the King Power , with the away side looking to spoil the Leicester party The return of Danny Simpson saw Daniel Amartey drop to the bench after an impressive weekend performance. Leicester were dominant for much of the first half, but fell behind when Salomon Rondon breached them for the first time in a league home match since Chelsea’s late goal in the end of December. Danny Drinkwater’s deflected effort meant Leicester became the first top-flight side to bring up 50 league goals this season and the superb Riyad Mahrez set up Andy King, with an exquisite touch to score just before the interval. Mahrez then handled the ball outside the area which was emphatically punished by Gardner and Leicester could not replicate the last-gasp weekend winner despite late pressure. Jeffery Schlupp came on in the 63rd minute for the league leaders and was almost on the scoresheet but for a great save by the baggies goalkeeper.
We move to Carrow Road where Norwich welcomed a resurgent Chelsea side looking to make it three wins out of three first time this season. A first-minute goal from Kenedy and strike from Diego Costa helped Chelsea to a 2-1 victory. The game also saw a first start of young Bertrand Traore who provided the assist for Costa’s goal. Both Baba Rahman and John Obi Mikel featured for the champions in the second half in a bid to solidify their defence to cope with the Norwich pressure. Dieumerci Mbokani came on in the second half for Norwich while Youssouf Mulumbu was an unused substitute.
A sublime strike from Xherdan Shaqiri secured Stoke City a 1-0 win over Newcastle United. Stoke dominated most of the game, but neither side failed to create clear chances in a low-key first half. Newcastle improved after the break but went behind when Shaqiri’s 20-yard strike flew in past Rob Elliot. Jack Butland superbly saved substitute Seydou Doumbia’s injury-time header as Stoke clinched a third straight win. Mame Biram Diouf was introduced in the 70th minute and was on hand to set up Shaqiri for his goal.
Tottenham missed a golden opportunity to go top of the league after a 1-0 loss against West Ham. Michail Antonio’s seventh-minute header from Dimitri Payet’s corner gave Slaven Bilic’s side a narrow victory margin – but the Hammers were vastly superior to a disappointing Spurs, who never threatened the victory. Striker Diafra Sakho made a comeback to the first team after a three month injury lay off. Emmanuel Emenike also featured for West Ham.
Liverpool welcomed Manchester City in a hope to avenge their weekend’s cup loss against the same opponents. Kolo Toure made his 300th EPL start in this match – the first African player to reach this landmark in the competition as Liverpool gained a measure of revenge for Sunday’s League Cup final heartache with a 3-0 triumph at Anfield. Strikers Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho both featured for Manchester City but failed to get on the score-sheet.
With Odion Ighalo scoring just one goal in nine Premier League appearances so far in 2016, the striker was looking to get back on the score-sheet against Manchester United at Old Trafford. This was not to be as the striker had many missed opportunities which came back to haunt the hornets as stand in captain for the Reds, Juan Mata was on hand to score the game’s only goal courtesy a delightful free kick. Allan Nyom played the whole the 90 minutes in a good defensive performance.
As a tribute to his outstanding achievement, Kolo Toure has been named this week’s EPL Player of the Week.