Nigerian stars take Europe by storm with weekend exploits

By Daily Sports on February 1, 2016

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Nigerian football was laid low earlier this week when Sunday Oliseh’s Eagles were dumped out of the African Nations Championship in the opening round following a shock defeat to Guinea.

While the tournament started well for the national side, with a 4-1 demolition of Niger, subsequent failings have prompted major doubts over the quality of the NPFL and the abilities of the coach.

However, if Nigerian football needed any kind of boost, any kind of fillip following the misery of the last few days, they certainly got it this weekend, as a series of stars demonstrated that the nation's pool of wealth is as limitless as ever.

Similarly, the ongoing drama of the transfer window has served to remind Super Eagles fans that they are blessed with some of the brightest and most exciting talents in the world game.

Saturday was Nigeria’s day.

Kelechi Iheanacho has flitted in and out of the City first team this season, but has largely shone when given the opportunity, notably in the Sky Blues' recent demolition of Crystal Palace and earlier in the campaign, in the cups, with the south Londoners also the victims, and Norwich City also put to the sword.

The return to fitness of Sergio Aguero threatened to reduce the forward’s playing time, but against Aston Villa the wonderkid reaffirmed that it is Wilfried Bony and not he who should have to worry about minutes during the coming months.

Iheanacho scored a hat-trick, terrorising the beleaguered Villlains with his speed , movement and menace in possession, and proving himself to be every inch a bona fide frontman. Indeed, it became easy to forget that the youngster is only 19-years-old, such was his composure and confidence as the Midlanders were dissected.

Expect Kele to be registered in the Citizens’ Champions League squad for the knockout rounds, while for Bony – Africa’s most expensive player – the future looks uncertain, both Swansea City and Newcastle United have been linked to his signature.

Only a year older than Iheanacho – and much less celebrated – is London-born forward Chuba Akpom.

The attacker, one of the jewels in the crown of Arsenal’s academy, has previously been loaned out to the likes of Brentford, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest without finding the net, but appears to have finally found his scoring boots on loan at Hull City.

The 20-year-old was in devastating form against Bury at the weekend, working in tandem alongside Sone Aluko; opening the scoring in the 14th minute, making it 2-0 with a penalty before the hour mark – after winning the spotkick himself – and then rounding off the victory soon afterwards.

While Akpom will be delighted to have improved his less-than-stellar scoring record with the Tigers, and will be chuffed to have let his feet do the talking, following a fall out with manager Steve Bruce and an extended spell out of the side.

“I’m delighted for Chuba,” Bruce began, speaking after the match as per the Express. “He spat his dummy out last week and threw his toys out of the pram.

“He’s a young player with lots of ability and I’m sure it’ll do him the world of good. It’s good to see him get a hat-trick and I’m sure he’ll remember that for a while.”

Akpom will surely be desperate for the showing against Bury to act as a launchpad for a more prominent role in the first team at Hull – currently top of the Championship – as the Tigers seek an immediate return to the Premier League.

If he can shine over the coming months, then perhaps he can hope for a spot in Arsenal’s first team – taking inspiration from Alex Iwobi perhaps – rather than a further loan or an exit from the Emirates Stadium in the summer.

Beyond Iwobi and Akpom, it feels like Nigerians are taking over the Arsenal youth ranks at the moment.

Victor Osimhen may have slipped through the net – the wonderkid has been snapped up by Wolfsburg, despite Arsenal interest – but the Gunners appear to be on the brink of deals to sign Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Nwakali, both of whom were pictured alongside Arsene Wenger earlier this week.

That the pair – two of the stars of the Nigeria side that triumphed at the U-17 World Cup in Chile in 2015 – are being courted by a Premier League heavyweight (with Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur also having been linked) is testament to their burgeoning reputations within the world game.

These two appear destined for the top, and with Iheanacho and, after this weekend, Akpom, flying high, they won’t be short of inspiration.

Finally, lost in the various narratives of the weekend, was Odion Ighalo’s 16th goal of the season – enough to see off Forest in the FA Cup and secure for Watford a Last 16-clash against Leeds United.

While Nwakali and Chukwueze will surely be inspired by Ighalo’s goalscoring heroics over the last 12 months, perhaps his form could also motivate Emmanuel Emenike upon his arrival in England.

The ex-Super Eagles frontman completed his loan move to West Ham United over the weekend, and while – intriguingly – his arrival prompted much less speculation and comment than the two wonderkids signing for his new London rivals, the 28-year-old possesses the qualities to perpetuate the Hammers’ feint Champions League hopes for the coming weeks and months. (Goal)

•Photo shows some of the Nigerian stars making waves in Europe.

Source Daily Sports

Posted February 1, 2016

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