Mahrez and Co on song in England
RIYAD MAHREZ (Leicester): Mahrez, pictured, scored against Watford as he became the first Algerian to play 100 Premier League games. He bagged his 12th goal of the season in the 58th minute by pouncing on a mistake from Adrian Mariappa to shoot low past Heurelho Gomes from a tight angle.
MAME BIRAM DIOUF (Stoke): The Senegal forward netted for the first time in 12 months as Stoke drew 2-2 in Bournemouth. Diouf was only in the Stoke starting line-up because Burundi-born Saido Berahino was ill and made the most of his opportunity. With the match level at 1-1 in the 73rd minute, Diouf met Geoff Cameron’s cross with a composed finish from five yards. It was the 29-year-old’s first goal since scoring against West Ham last May.
WILFRED NDIDI (Leicester): Nigeria international Ndidi got on the scoresheet for outgoing champions Leicester in the victory over Watford. The 20-year-old pounced when Etienne Capoue failed to clear and smashed the ball home from 10 yards.
VICTOR WANYAMA (Tottenham): The Kenya midfield enforcer has barely put a foot wrong this season, being equally effective in closing down opponents and creating opportunities with sublime passing. However, he had a rare off-day in a 1-0 London derby loss at West Ham that seriously dented the title hopes of second-place Tottenham.
Bakambu strikes in losing cause
CEDRIC BAKAMBU (Villarreal): The sensational form of the Democratic Republic of Congo striker continued as he sprinted clear of Gerard Pique in Barcelona to slot home his seventh goal in six games. Unfortunately for Bakambu, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were unstoppable as they combined for all the Catalans’ goals in a 4-1 win.
ALY MALLE, UCHE AGBO (Granada): Malle and Agbo were involved in one of the more talked about substitutions of the La Liga season as Granada boss Tony Adams replaced Malian Malle with Nigerian Agbo just 18 minutes into a 4-0 thrashing by visiting Real Madrid. Real led 2-0 at that point, and the attempt by former Arsenal star Adams to stem the tide failed.
Mixed fortunes for Italy-based trio
MOHAMED SALAH (Roma): Roma routed AC Milan 4-1 with Salah a constant thorn in the side of the fallen San Siro giants. The Egyptian dribbled into the box in the closing stages only to be hauled down by defender Gabriel Paletta and Roma captain Daniele De Rossi converted the spot-kick.
KEITA BALDE (Lazio): Balde’s brace in a 3-1 derby defeat of Roma last week came amid reports that his recent purple patch was inspired by a desire to leave the Serie A club. However, fans are convinced the Senegalese is committed to Lazio, and he took only minutes to open the scoring in a spectacular 7-3 home win over Sampdoria. Keita has scored 14 goals in 29 league games this season.
SULLEY MUNTARI (Pescara): Muntari returned to the Pescara squad days after his one-game ban for complaining about racist abuse to the referee in a 1-0 defeat at Cagliari was rescinded. But, after a “really difficult past few days” as he waited for his appeal to be heard, the Ghanaian remained on the bench as already-relegated Pescara lost 1-0 to fellow strugglers Crotone.
Gabon star makes up for missed penalty
PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Borussia Dortmund): The Gabon striker fired a first-half penalty wide, but headed the winner in a 2-1 victory over Hoffenheim, who Dortmund leap-frogged into third with two games left. It was Aubameyang’s 28th league goal, leaving him level with Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski in the race to be the Bundesliga’s top scorer this season.
NABY KEITA (RB Leipzig): The Guinea international was again flawless as a defensive midfielder in a 4-1 win at Hertha Berlin, which confirmed Leipzig’s direct Champions League place next season. The 22-year-old is being courted by Liverpool, but has three years left on his contract at second-place Leipzig.
Mandjeck helps Metz into top-flight
GEORGES MANDJECK (Metz): The Africa Cup of Nations winner helped Metz clinch top-flight status next season with the opening goal in a 2-0 victory at Lille. The Cameroon midfielder fired in his third goal of the season when Lille failed to clear a free-kick.
MAXWEL CORNET (Lyon): The former France youth international, who pledged his future to Ivory Coast last month, scored twice in Lyon’s 3-2 win over Nantes that left the hosts on course to return to the Europa League next season. Cornet headed in from a corner to give Lyon a 2-1 lead on 70 minutes and volleyed the winner 10 minutes later. – AFP