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Africa’s top stars in the English Premier League endured a weekend to forget as Liverpool’s winning streak came to an end against Manchester United on Sunday and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Arsenal were eclipsed by Lys Mousset and Sheffield United on Monday.
Had Sadio Mane and Liverpool defeated United at Old Trafford this weekend, they would have equalled the English top-flight record for consecutive victories at 18, matching Manchester City’s exploits between August and December 2017.
As it was, they had to settle for a draw, with Adam Lallana’s late equaliser cancelling out Marcus Rashford’s 36th-minute opener. On paper, a point away at Old Trafford is not a bad return, but considering Liverpool hadn’t dropped a point since March 3, and the fact that United are enduring their worst start to a campaign in 30 years, this represents two points lost for the Reds.
Mohamed Salah sat this one out, despite speculation ahead of the game that he’d be fit to return from an ankle injury suffered against Leicester City ahead of the international break. “Mo was not ready, so that’s how it is,” Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports after the match. “He could not train with the team.
“I don’t know where it came from he might play. There was no chance. Maybe Wednesday [vs. Genk in the UEFA Champions League], we will see.”
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In Salah’s absence, Mane had the opportunity to ensure the spotlight was on him, particularly in light of persistent recent rumours of a spat between the pair.
However, this was not a vintage Mane performance. In the first half, he set up Roberto Firmino with a fine cutback, which which the Brazilian fired too close to David De Gea, before netting one himself — in the immediate aftermath of United’s goal — only for VAR to rule it out for handball.
Replays clearly vindicated the referee’s decision, but that did little to calm a fuming Klopp on the touchline. Mane would end the game having created two further goalscoring opportunities for teammates, but he was unable to get off another shot.
Liverpool fans will take some encouragement from the entrance of Naby Keita as an 81st minute substitute for his first Premier League action since April, with the past six months of his career mottled by injury.
So the weekend ended with Mane and Salah still on five and four league goals respectively, while the third African to share last season’s Golden Boot — Aubameyang — also drew a blank as Arsenal were downed by Sheffield United away.
While the Gunners’ defence have born the majority of the criticism aimed at the team this season, their attacking unit, too, lacked cohesion and fluency on Monday.
Supply to Aubameyang was limited throughout, pertinently with Mesut Ozil still overlooked, while youngster Bukayo Saka resorted to throwing himself to the ground theatrically in the box as another chance went begging.
Nicolas Pepe looks no closer to being the solution to Arsenal’s ongoing woe, with one glaring miss inside the six-yard box and a long-range attempt his key contributions before being replaced with 12 minutes to play.
Instead, one of the division’s less heralded African players secured all three points, with Mousset — a STG10 million off-season signing from Bournemouth, where he made negligible impact last term — securing the win with a close-range finish 30 minutes into his first start for the Blades.
Former France Under-21 international Mousset, who is eligible for Senegal, has already scored two goals in six Premier League outings for United this season, having only managed one in 24 for Bournemouth last term.
Over in the Bundesliga, Achraf Hakimi was the star African performer of the weekend, delivering an outstanding display as Borussia Dortmund defeated league leaders Borussia Monchengladbach 1-0 to move up to 15 points, one off top spot.
The Morocco full-back — playing in an advanced role on the right flank — excelled with a more offensive brief, creating two goalscoring opportunities, completing a game-high six dribbles, and sending in several testing crosses.
There was to be no such joy for his compatriot Amine Harit, who was booked in a frustrated showing as Schalke were defeated 2-0 at Hoffenheim to miss the chance to move top.
Togo’s Ihlas Bebou scored the hosts’ second after coming off the bench.
In Ligue 1, the absence of injured Idrissa Gueye didn’t hurt Paris Saint-Germain, as they thumped OGC Nice 4-1, with Cameroon’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting looking the part in a slightly withdrawn role before his substitution just after the hour mark.
PSG moved five points clear of nearest challenges Nantes, for whom Molla Wague was dismissed in a 1-0 defeat at Metz, with Habib Diallo scoring an 86th-minute winner for the hosts.
Ivorian duo Max-Alain Gradel and Yaya Sanogo were on the scoresheet in Toulouse’s 2-1 victory over Lille, for whom Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen continues to struggle to translate his fine home form into away games.
All of the 20-year-old’s seven league goals this term have come at home, with one assist the sum total of his decisive contributions across five away matches.
Elsewhere, Islam Slimani continued his fine scoring run as Monaco defeated Rennes 3-2, and Denis Bouanga netted a 93rd-minute penalty as Saint-Etienne won 1-0 away at Bordeaux.
In La Liga, Ansu Fati was an unused substitute as Barcelona moved top of the table with a 3-0 victory at Pape Diop’s Eibar, while Real Madrid were defeated 1-0 by Mallorca, with Ivorian wideman Lago Junior scoring the only goal of the game.
Junior has represented five different Spanish clubs since leaving his homeland and Issia Wazi in 2008, but he had never before scored in the top flight.
Thomas Partey was hauled off after 54 minutes as an ineffective Atletico Madrid lost further ground on the new leaders, held 1-1 by Valencia at home, while Karl Toko Ekambi scored the only goal of the game as Villarreal defeated Espanyol away to move up to seventh.
In Serie A, a fortnight after defeating Internazionale to replace them atop the ladder, Juventus had to battle to down Bologna 2-1, with Senegalese full-back Ibrahima Mbaye contributing the assist for Danilo’s 26th-minute equaliser after Cristiano Ronaldo had given the Old Lady the lead.
Kwadwo Asamoah was an unused substitute for Inter as they defeated Sassuolo 4-3 away to keep pace with Juve. Alfred Duncan and Hamed Junior Traore contributed assists for the hosts, while Jeremie Boga game off the bench to net Sassuolo’s third and offer hope of a late comeback.
There were also goals for Khouma Babacar, as Lecce held AC Milan 2-2, and Stefano Okaka, as Udinese dispatched Torino 1-0.