Nigerian players in Europe: Red-Hot Onuachu just can’t stop scoring

Paul Onuachu, for the 12th time in 13 league appearances for Genk, showed Super Eagles chief coach Gernot Rohr why he should be considered an integral part of the Nigerian national team after he scored twice in Genk’s 5-1 white-wash of Cercle Brugge at the weekend.

Onuachu has found his chances limited with the Nigerian national team with Rohr not a big fan of the giant striker’s style. However, the 26-year-old continues to impress at his Belgian club and has now scored 12 goals in 13 league appearances.

Onuachu was replaced by international teammate Cyriel Dessers 13 minutes from time as Genk climbed to the top of the standings in the Belgian topflight after 14 rounds of matches.

In second place in Belgium are Cercle Brugge’s more established city rivals, Club Brugge who handed their Nigerian-born star forward Emmanuel Dennis a reprieve days after he was suspended by the Belgian side for storming off the team bus ahead of last week’s Champions League meeting with Borussia Dortmund after not being allowed to sit in his favourite seat.

Club Brugge were beaten 3-0 by Dortmund in the Champions League and they did not fare much better against Mouscron as they played out to an uninspiring goalless draw with Dennis coming into the fray in the 78th minute as Brugge – the reigning champions of the Belgian Jupiler League – went in search of a winner against the home side.

In the English Premier League, Nigerian defender Semi Ajayi played a vital role as West Brom finally secured their first league win of the season courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United thanks to Connor Gallagher’s 13th-minute effort.

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Ajayi was on from start to finish, winning three of his five duels over the cause of the encounter played at the Hawthorns.

The reverse was the case though for Ajayi’s international teammate Alex Iwobi who, after an encouraging first performance as a right wing-back for Everton against Fulham in the penultimate round of the Premier League, struggled to impress against Leeds United.

Iwobi, this time playing as a left wing-back, seemed like a fish out of water and struggled to contribute to his side’s attack and deal with the Leeds United onslaught.

That wasn’t the case though for former Nigeria international Victor Moses who excelled in an unfamiliar left wing-back role at the weekend for Spartak Moscow in their 2-0 win against Rotor Volgograd in the Russian Premier League.

In the English Championship, Super Eagles vice-captain, William Troost-Ekong was an unused substitute as Watford moved two points off the top following a 4-1 win over Preston North End.

His former Super Eagles teammate and ex-captain John Obi Mikel was in action from the start as Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday played out to a goalless draw.

Mikel has started in every one of Stoke City’s 14 league games this season but saw only 76 minutes of action before he was taken off for the first time in the current campaign.

Seven minutes after the 33-year-old former Nigeria international made his way to the Potters’ bench, Nigerian wing-back Moses Odubajo came into the fray for the Owls who would be hoping to return to the Premier League for the first time since the 1999-2000 season when they finished in 19th place and were relegated.

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Nigeria junior international Tom Dele-Bashiru watched on from the bench.

Also in the English second-tier Championship, on-loan Liverpool winger Sheyi Ojo, who remains eligible for Nigeria despite having featured for various England national youth sides, found the back of the net for Cardiff City in the Blue Birds’ 4-0 thumping of Luton Town.

Across the English Channel, in the French Ligue 1, Moses Simon made his return from injury, but it was not enough as Nantes suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Olympique Marseille.

Simon has been out since he went off in the clash against PSG, and missed the Super Eagles’ double-header against Sierra Leone, but he returned as a second-half substitute at the Stade Velodrome where goals by Florin Thauvin, Dimitri Payet and Dario Benedetto gave the former French champions a comfortable victory over the Canaries.

Also in the French topflight, Josh Maja featured for 81 minutes and put in a lot of work as Bordeaux forced reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-2 draw at the Parc Des Princes.

It was Maja’s 11th league appearance of the season, but he could not add to his two goals.

Across the French border, in neighbouring Germany, Taiwo Awoniyi was in action for Union Berlin in their 3-3 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Awoniyi, who opened his Bundesliga account for the German capital city side in the penultimate round of games was on for the entire duration of the match but could not add to his solitary league goal.

In the Dutch Eredivisie, German-born Nigerian goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, made his fourth league appearance of the season as Sparta Rotterdam suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to PSV Eindhoven at the Philips Stadium.

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The scoreline could have been worse for the visitors but for Okoye’s heroics which prevented the hosts from scoring until they were awarded a penalty late-on in the game. Even that 78th-minute effort from the charity spot was saved by Okoye, but the rebound kindly came the way of Donyell Malen, who gladly dispatched the ball into the net having seen his penalty saved by the Nigerian number one.

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